Massive Ice Glaciers Found in Non-Polar Regions of Mars
Scientists used radar probes aboard the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to help discover low, wide glaciers about half a mile thick can be found under layers of rocky debris on Mars.
This discovery is the biggest find of water away from the planet’s northern and southern polar regions, and will likely become a target for future research by probes and possible manned missions. The ice in the hilly sections could amount to about 10 percent of the same volume of frozen water in the Red Planet’s polar ice caps.
The orbiter’s shallow radar, dubbed SHARAD, is able to penetrate the surface of the planet and see what is underneath. The two mid-latitude glaciers are massive and completely composed of water ice.
Scientists believe the debris on top of the glacier helps insulates the ice so it doesn’t turn into water vapor.
“Altogether, these glaciers almost certainly represent the largest reservoir of water ice on Mars that’s not in the polar caps,” said John Holt, who is the lead author of the study. “Just one of the features we examined is three times larger than the city of Los Angeles and up to one-half-mile thick, and there are many more.”
The glaciers could be up to 200 million years old, and it’s possible ice samples may have genetic fragments from living bacteria on the planet. In addition to signs of life, the ice could be a good record of Mars’ climate over the past few million years.