Finding water or ice on Mars is becoming fairly commonplace these days, but this is a new one: researchers are reporting that they've spotted tall cliffs, up to 100 metres (328 feet) high, made of almost pure water ice in several locations on Mars!
The new Mars ice imagery were captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and subsequently studied by the scientists.
Scientists examining the images send back by MRO have found eight different locations on Mars that reveal enormous deposits of nearly pure water ice, which lie just 2 metres (6.5 feet) below the surface.
Mars ice cliffs could be key to supporting life on Red Planet Mars has ice sheets more than 100 meters deep hiding beneath its red dust, offering a potential water source for future explorers of the Red Planet, according to new research. What's more, bands and variations in color suggest that the ice contains distinct layers, which could be used to understand changes in Mars' climate over time (the ice sheets themselves likely formed as snow accumulated over time). Since there are few craters on the surface at these sites, the authors propose that the ice was formed relatively recently. The scientists claim that the ice could be an easily accessible source of water for the explorers who hope to go and live there. By combining different images together, as shown above, the composite images can reveal the subtle differences in how the surface absorbs and reflects light, and thus provide information about what makes up the surface. "It's like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what's usually hidden beneath the ground".
A close-up of the false colour portion of the above image, focusing in on the scarp to reveal the details.
"It's looking more encouraging that water ice could be available at depths shallow enough that could be used as resources for human missions to Mars", Angel Abbud-Madrid, the director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines, told National Geographic. The size of the deposit, however, means that it will be a very long time before it completely sublimates into the atmosphere.