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Steep slopes on Mars reveal structure of buried ice

14 January 2018

"We've found a new window into the ice for study, which we hope will be of interest to those interested in all aspects of ice on Mars and its history", The Washington Post reported quoting Colin Dundas, a member of the US Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Arizona and an author of a report published Thursday in the journal Science.

Scientists have found what they say are huge ice sheets stretching across Mars, a development that could be a "game-changer" in our mission to live there.

"Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need", Byrne said.

Multiple sites rich in water ice found on Mars
Mars held vast amounts of water in ancient past, still has sizable amounts near surface

Researchers believe the ice formed relatively recently, because the sites appear smooth on the surface, unpocked by craters that would be formed by celestial debris smashing into the planet over time. I think it's sort of a game-changer.

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.

The remarkable ice cliffs appear to contain distinct layers, which could preserve a record of Mars' past climate, according to the.

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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.

Scientists have not determined how these particular scarps initially form.

Mars likely held vast amounts of water in its ancient past, but most of it escaped into space. 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. But the new research describes something entirely new: thick underground sheets that are exposed along large slopes that rise as much as 100 yards up from the planet.

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Scientists point out that the hidden ice sheets could pave the way for supporting life on Mars.

Examination of some of the scarps with MRO's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) confirmed that the bright material is frozen water.

Eight scarps, with slopes as steep as 55 degrees, reveal new information about the internal layered structure of previously detected underground ice sheets in Mars' middle latitudes, the United States space agency said. When does it recede?'

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Steep slopes on Mars reveal structure of buried ice