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13 January 2018, 01:03 | Nina Mathis
Ice cliffs spotted on Mars
While scientists already knew that about a third of the surface of Mars contains shallow ground ice and that its poles harbour major ice deposits, the research published on Thursday described thick underground ice sheets exposed along slopes up to 100 yards (meters) tall at the planet's middle latitudes. And we need waterice on Mars because we can combine it with the Carbon dioxide that's very abundant in the atmosphere, and that gives us two very important things for future manned habitability of Mars.
NASA scientists used HiRISE, a powerful camera installed on its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to make the discovery of the ice in the faces of eroding slopes. And it could tell scientists a lot about Mars' climate history.
Aside from potentially aiding in human exploration of Mars, the newly-mapped ice sheets could also unlock secrets hidden in Mars' past.
Mars clearly had a watery past, and it's expected that much of the water is still on the planet.
"It is surprising that exposed ice has been found on the surface of these locations in mid-latitudes, which are usually covered by a layer of dust or rheology", said Dandas. 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.
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"This subsurface ice could contain valuable records of the Martian climate, just like the Greenland and Antarctic ice cores", said Susan Conway, a planetary scientist at the University of Nantes in France. They found the ice at the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, which is equivalent to Earth's regions like South America or Scotland, and believe it could "be a useful source of water for future human exploration of the red planet", they wrote.
A photo of a crater on Mars taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Researchers have known for decades that Mars has ice. The ice sheets are found 55 to 60 degrees north or south of the equator where temperatures can drop extremely low, making it hard for future astronauts to gain access to them.
A radar instrument on the MRO previously detected signatures of thick, buried ice across the planet's belly, however, this latest study indicates a greater prevalence of Martian ice.
Planetary scientists around the world are finding hope in that this could, in fact, be the clue to pure ice. It turned out he was looking at steep cliffs almost 330 feet (100 m) tall with exposed ice.
The authors favor the idea that what they've found is indeed ice, probably mixed with dust, and was deposited during a time when Mars experienced snow.
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