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05 февраля 2018, 10:20

Martian Glaciers Could Help Unlock Planet’s History


Stay on target

The quest to find water on Mars continues as researchers report the likely presence of ice sheets on the Red Planet.

Data from two orbiting spacecraft revealed ice cliffs at least 100 meters (328 feet) thick, which may provide information about Mars’ past climate.

“They might even be a useful source of water for future human exploration of the Red Planet,” Colin Dundas, research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a report, published in this week’s issue of Science .

It was Dundas who spotted a pale band of blue peeking out from the globe’s rusty complexion in high-resolution photos, taken a few years ago by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The multipurpose MRO, equipped with the University of Arizona’s HiRISE camera, launched in August 2005 and arrived on Mars seven months later. The spacecraft takes detailed pictures of the Martian surface suing the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) shooter.

With an eye on eight locations where erosion has occurred, creating steep slopes that expose the internal structure of the Martian mantle, Dundas & Co.  stumbled upon deposits of water ice, extending three to six feet below the surface.

“The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed water ice,” Dundas wrote in the Science article. “The ice deposits likely originated as snowfall during Mars’ high-obliquity periods and have now compacted into massive fractured and layered ice.”

“We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate,” he explained.

Just what those records will uncover remains unclear.

Scientists in 2015 provided evidence of water on Mars, based on an analysis of dark streaks of hydrated salt deposits—recurring slope lineae (RSL)—on the Red Planet.

A year later, NASA announced that Mars has roughly the same amount of H2O as Earth’s driest deserts (i.e. not enough to sustain human exploration).

But hope springs eternal as researchers report the likely presence of ice sheets in more temperate regions. Extracting water for personal use, however, would conflict with the study of the ice layers for historic details. (Fingers crossed it’s not infected by a millenia-old sentient virus.)

Last summer, NASA’s MRO stumbled upon a hole in the surface of Mars’ South Pole. The dimple is most likely the effect of a collapse pit—formed when the ground sinks into a void below—or an impact crater (i.e. something slamming into the planet).

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Source: https://www.geek.com/news/martian-glaciers-could-help-unlock-planets-history-1727768/?source=science