Remains of a recent glacier have been found near the Martian equator, indicating that ice may still be present at shallow depths in the region. If this discovery is confirmed, it could have major implications for future human exploration on the Red Planet.
Using data from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) at NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), researchers from the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute have discovered light-colored deposits (LTDs) on the surface of Mars. Consisting of light-colored sulfate salts, fault fields, and moraine bands, these features are signs of a “glacier”.
This glacier is located near the Martian equator at 7°33’S, 93°14’W, and is estimated to be 3.7 miles (6 km) long and up to 2.5 miles (4 km) wide, with a surface elevation of up to 1.1 miles. (1.7 km), according to a permit (Opens in a new tab) From the SETI Institute.
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“What we found is not ice, but salt deposits with detailed morphological features of a glacier,” Pascal Lee, lead author of the study and a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute, said in the release. “What we think happened here is that the salt formed on top of a glacier while maintaining the shape of the ice below, down to details like fault fields and moraine bands.”
The presence of such a glacier indicates that there may have been surface water ice Mars more recently than previously thought, which has implications for our understanding of the habitability of the Red Planet and for future exploration missions.
“This region of Mars has a history volcanic activity. Where some of the volcanic material came into contact with the glacial ice, chemical reactions were occurring at the boundary between the two to form a solidified layer of sulfate salts,” Sarab Chobham, study co-author and graduate student in the University of Maryland’s Department of Geology, said in the release. “This is the most likely explanation.” of the hydrated and hydroxylated sulfates that we observe in this light sediment.”
The observed LTDs consist of sulfate salts that form when newly erupted volcanic materials — volcanic ash, pumice, and hot lava — come into contact with water ice. When these sediments accumulate, they form a hard, crusty salt layer. Over time, erosion would have exposed deposits of salt, along with fissures and moraine bands, that are unique to glaciers.
“Glaciers often present distinct types of features, including fringe-marginal fault fields, volatilization, and tics, but also moraine groups and leaf tiers,” said John Schott, study co-author and geoscientist at the Mars Institute. in the statement. “We’re seeing similar features in this lighter sediment, in shape, location and size. It’s very interesting.”
Previous research found glacier activity near the Martian equator in the distant past, while more recent glacial activity has only been seen at higher latitudes so far. According to the release, recent HiRISE observations indicate that these low-latitude firms are geologically young.
“A relatively small glacier at this location tells us that Mars has had surface ice recently, even near the equator, which is new,” Li said in the statement.
Although water ice is unstable on Mars near the equator at these altitudes, it is possible that some glacier water ice is preserved under sulfate salts. More research is needed to confirm, but if water ice is indeed present in this tropical region, there is a possibility that it could be mined as a resource for future missions.
Desire to put humans down in a place where they can get there water ice extraction From Earth it prompts mission planners to consider higher latitude locations. But the latter environments are usually much cooler and more challenging for humans and robots. If there are tropical locations where ice can be found at shallower depths, Lee said in the statement, we will have the best of both environments: warmer conditions for human exploration and still access to ice. “We now have to determine if, and how much water ice may already be present in this lagging glacier, and whether other light-colored sediments may also contain or contain ice-rich substrates.”
The results were foot (Opens in a new tab) At the 54th Planetary and Lunar Science Conference held in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 15.
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