Steep slopes on Mars reveal structure of buried ice

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However, in a game-changing development, scientists have discovered huge ice sheets on Mars and they believe that it could provide an unlimited supply of water for the humans. Whilst water ice is known to be present in some locations on Mars, many questions remain about its layering, thickness, purity, and extent.

Eroded slopes of pure water ice called scarps were scanned by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"It was surprising to find ice exposed at the surface at these places". The 3D images were studied by scientists using the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

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.

"Here we have what we think is nearly pure water ice buried just below the surface". These images helped Colin Dundas, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, and team discover eight steep cliffs of what appears to be nearly pure ice. The sites are in both northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, at latitudes from about 55 to 58 degrees, equivalent on Earth to Scotland or the tip of South America.

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Shayne Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson said the discovery was like looking at an ant farm from a glass on the side and seeing what's hidden beneath the ground. A scarp likely grows wider and taller as it "retreats", due to sublimation of the ice directly from solid form into water vapour.

"The ice is concentrated in layered deposits at the poles, and also found in the shallow sub-surface at middle latitudes, as in our study".

The varying shades of light to a dark blue color of ice as shown on the images suggest that the thick slabs of ice are stacked. Millions of years ago, Mars span on a different axis and in a different orbit, so some scientists say these signatures may be remnants of glaciers from then. The ice is a critical target for science and exploration: it affects modern geomorphology, is expected to preserve a record of climate history, influences the planet's habitability, and may be a potential resource for future exploration. They also may make frozen water more accessible than previously thought to future robotic or human exploration missions.

The authors of the study have said that the latest discovery will be helpful for the establishment of a base on the Red Planet, as the water could be used for drinking, potentially create oxygen and fuel.

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