A recent finding in Mars That changed the way people thought about water conservation, thanks to observations made by surface radar (SHARAD) at NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), scientists have discovered immense layers of chilled water in the depths of the planet.
The report, published by Geophysical Research Letters and led by academics at the University of Texas and the University of Arizona, both in the United States, uses data from the space agency to determine that at 1,500 meters deep under the north pole of the red planet there is evidence of ancient layers of ice and this could be the third largest deposit of this vital element.
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The discovery of water on Mars is always important to scientists because provides small lights of possible scenarios suited to life, as is known at some point in the history of the planet.
The layers also allow you to know the antiquity of its formation, since they are interspersed with lines of sand that were created with the passage of the meteorological cycles that Mars faced. Until now, it was believed that these ice caps were lost, however, the layers of sand were able to retain them over time, trapped in alternating bands, like a cake.
"We did not expect to find so much water ice here," explains lead scientist Stefano Nerozzi, a graduate research assistant at the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Texas (UTIG), adding that its high magnitude "probably makes it the third largest reservoir of water on Mars after the polar caps".
According to studies presented this week in the scientific publication – which has already been corroborated by an independent study at Hopkins University – if all the ice contained in these layers melted could cover the entire Mars with an ocean of 1.5 meters deep.
Initially it was thought that this area contained less than 50% imprisoned water in the sand, however, the new analyzes performed by the MRO instrument suggest that there is more water than sand in proportions that could be between 61% and 88% of frozen water.
"The only hypothesis that may explain our findings and all previous studies is that this zone constructed alternate layers of remains of polar formations and sand, the latter acting as sheets protective, which prevented a complete withdrawal of the old polar ice, "says Nerozzi.
"This is another great surprise because it means we have a new and unexpected record of polar ice sheets growing and receding in earlier times dating back hundreds of millions of years," he said.
The key is on the slope
Scientists have long known about the glacial events on Mars and how they are driven by variations in the orbit and the inclination of the planet. During periods of approximately 50 thousand years, Mars leans toward the Sun before gradually returning to a vertical position, like a falling top.
Precisely this is one of the missions that have NASA's latest rover on the red planet, InSight, which aims to measure the earthquakes and movements of the planet during their travel around the star of the Solar System.
So, explain the scientists, when the planet rotates vertically, the equator is facing the Sun, which allows the polar caps to grow. As the planet tilts, the layers of ice recede, perhaps disappearing completely.
Co-author Jack Holt, a professor at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, says the study provides important new insights into ice-to-mid-latitude ice exchange where his research group previously confirmed the presence of extended glaciers, also using the SHARAD instrument.
"Surprisingly, the total volume of water contained in these buried polar deposits is about the same as all ice water known to exist on glaciers and the layers of ice buried in the lower latitudes of Mars, and are about the same age, "he explains.