Erosion on Mars reveals ice, moves boulders

Erosion on Mars reveals ice, moves boulders

Erosion on Mars reveals ice, moves boulders

"In the mid-latitudes, it's normally covered by a blanket of dust or regolith", loose bits of rock atop a layer of bedrock, said research geologist Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, who led the study. "A check of the surface temperature using Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera helped researchers determine they're not seeing just thin frost covering the ground", explains NASA on their website.

The images show what researchers have identified as massive sheets of ice between and around steep slopes called scarps; some of the ice sheets are believed to be about 100 meters (330 feet) thick, going about as a deep as a football field is long. Dundas says ice at the surface is changing from strong into vapor, making the inclines fall and turn out to be additionally uncovered.

The researchers think the uncovered ice isn't steady at the generally warm surface temperatures.

More immediately, mapping ice deposits is useful in...

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The rust-colored world is known for its oxidized look, but if you dig down into the dirt, Mars gets a lot more interesting.

"In many ways, water is the key resource: Humans need liquid water biologically, water can be processed to provide oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for energy generation and even rocket fuel". It's been a big question, with hopes raised but then dashed over the years.

The sheer size of the ice sheets could help scientists better understand the history of Mars and its climate, NASA said in a new report. In any case, Dundas says that "at these areas its a significant thick ice sheet of rather clean ice".

Balme noted that this find would also benefit potential future explorers, especially given the rapidly approaching Mars exploration deadlines of various countries around the world.

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"This kind of ice is more widesp".

Interestingly, scientists think that Mars' obliquity - the tilt of the planet's axis relative to the plane of its orbit - has shifted a fair bit over the past few million years, varying between about 15 and 35 degrees, Dundas said.

The ice probably started as snowfall that compacted into massive fractured layers. If there is water on Mars, it likely comes from water vapor-there are very low levels of the stuff in the atmosphere-or underground ice.

Aside from potentially aiding in human exploration of Mars, the newly-mapped ice sheets could also unlock secrets hidden in Mars' past.

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