Huge Underground Ice Sheets Discovered on Mars

Multiple sites rich in water ice found on Mars

Multiple sites rich in water ice found on Mars

Finding water or ice on Mars is becoming fairly commonplace these days, but this is a new one: researchers are reporting that they've spotted tall cliffs, up to 100 metres (328 feet) high, made of almost pure water ice in several locations on Mars!

Erosion on Mars is exposing deposits of water ice, starting at depths as shallow as one to two meters below the surface and extending 100 meters or more.

This is not the first time ice has been found on Mars.

The research, using images from a Nasa spacecraft now orbiting the Red Planet, found that there are eight sites that appear to have huge ice deposits on steep slopes. This discovery came from spotting the edges of these deposits, which are eroding away to form tall cliffs that expose the ice to the thin Martian air. "What we've seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before".

There's a lot of mystery surrounding Mars, but scientists have recently made a groundbreaking discovery: ice.

According to NASA, the gray-scale portions of the image, on the left and right, are only from the red-light portion of the visible spectrum. With this combination, normal surface dust and minerals come out as the peach colour, while water ice stands out bright blue. They used MRO's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) to verify that these locations revealed the spectral signature of water. "Previous ideas for extracting human-usable water from Marswere to pull it from the very dry atmosphere or to break down water-containing rocks", said planetary scientist Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, a co-author of the study in the journal Science.

The findings showed that ice may be more available than previously known for use as water to support future robotic or human exploration missions, perhaps even the establishment of a permanent Mars base. "You can go out with a bucket and shovel and just collect as much water as you need".

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