Remnants of Mars’ ancient polar caps found

Scientists have discovered layers of ice on Mars more than 1.5 kilometers below the surface of the north pole, which they say are remnants of ancient polar ice caps and could be one of the largest reservoirs of water on the planet. They can also provide information on the Red Planet‘s past climatic conditions.

Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Arizona have made the discovery of ancient Mars polar caps in data collected by the SHARAD instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) probe. It can penetrate the Red Planet to a depth of about 2.5 kilometers.

Researchers have encountered not only large deposits of water ice, but also a mixture of ice and sand layers, whichora is a vestige of Mars’ ancient ice caps. The ice layers found are a record of the Red Planet’s history, with ktoThe climatic conditions that prevailed on Mars in the past.

– We didn’t expect to find so much water ice here,” admitted Stefano Nerozzi of the University of Texas Geophysical Institute in a statement released by the American Geophysical Union.

The researchers argue that the newly discovered deposit contains so much water ice that if it were melted and roevenly spread over the surface, it would create an ocean about 1.5 meters deep covering the entire planet.

The findings were confirmed in an independent study using gravity data. The research was conducted by scientistsow from Johns Hopkins University and were also published in the „Geophysical Research Letters”. Nerozzi was their wspoauthor of.

The authors believe that the layers just discovered were formed when lod accumulated at the poles during the last ice ages on Mars. Each time the planet warmed, the remains of the ice caps were covered with sand, whichowhich protected the lod against solar radiation and prevented it from melting.

A composite image showing alternating layers of ice and sand. Lod water is shown as light layers and sand as darker layers. Photo. NASA/ JPL/ University of Arizona

Until now, scientists believed that the ancient ice caps were lost, melted and evaporated. However, new research shows that huge deposits of water ice actually survived beneath the planet’s surface, trapped in alternating layers of ice and sand.

– Surprisingly, the total volume of water on Mars locked up in newly discovered buried polar deposits is approximately the same as the entire lod water, about whichorym is known to exist in glaciers and buried ice layers at lower latitudes. The deposits are approximately the same age – explained Jack Holt of the University of Arizona, cooroutor of the publication.

Examining this record of past glaciation may helpoc in determining whether Mars ever had the conditions to support life.

– Understanding how much water was available on a global scale in the cfown comparison with what is trapped at the poles is important if we want to have liquid water on Mars,” said Nerozzi. – There may be suitable conditions for life there, but if most of the water is confined to the poles, it will be difficult to have enough liquid water near the ropenetrates – added.

SourceoSource: University of Texas at Austin, photo. SA/DLR/FU Berlin; NASA MGS MOLA Science Team