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Calgary — While humans may be confused about sending people across the solar system to live on Mars one day, the discovery of a “glacier” on the Red Planet could mean the dream is one step closer to reality.
Scientists say the “groundbreaking declaration” made at the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, could mean “surface water ice” exists on Mars to this day.
The “archaeological glaciers” are not made of ice, but rather are one of several “light-coloured deposits” found in the area. Scientists say LTDs typically consist of light-colored sulfate salts; However, this species appears to have very similar features to the glacier.
The researchers say that the glacier was found near the Martian equator (specifically in Eastern Noctis Labyrinthus, at coordinates 7° 33′ S, 93° 14′ W for space lovers), which means that ice may remain around the region at shallower depths. “Major implications for future human exploration.”
The discovery suggests that Mars may have had a more “watery” history than scientists previously suspected, which could change our understanding of how the Red Planet has sustained human life.
“We’ve known of glacial activity on Mars at many locations, including near the equator in the distant past. We’ve known of recent glacial activity on Mars, but so far, only at higher latitudes,” says Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute. And the Mars Institute, lead author of the study: On this site tells us that Mars has experienced surface ice recently, even near the equator, which is new.
A relatively small glacier at this location tells us that Mars has had surface ice recently, even near the equator, which is new.
– Pascal Lee, Mars Institute
“The desire to land humans in a place where they can extract water ice from the Earth has prompted mission planners to look at higher latitude locations. But the latter environments are usually cooler and more challenging for humans and robots. If there are tropical locations where they can be found, Lee said,” Lee said. With ice at shallower depths, we’ll have the best of both environments: warmer conditions for human exploration while still having access to ice.”
However, Lee says more research needs to be done into whether and how much ice can be retained in LTDs.
“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 such as fault fields and moraine bands.
“Water ice, at the moment, is not stable on Mars itself near the equator at these altitudes. So it’s not surprising that we haven’t detected any water ice on the surface. It’s possible that the water ice is all in the glacier,” Lee told me. It’s far too far now. But there is also the possibility that some of them may still be protected at shallow depths under sulfate salts.”
Possible volcanic eruptions in the discovery area have preserved the glacier’s imprint, says Sarab Chobham, a graduate student in the University of Maryland’s Department of Geology and a co-author of the study.
“This region of Mars has a history of volcanic activity. Where some volcanic material came into contact with icy ice, chemical reactions were occurring at the boundary between the two to form a solid layer of sulfate salts,” Chobham explained. . “This is the most likely explanation for the hydrated and hydroxylated sulfate we are observing in this light-colored sediment.”
The scientists add that as the volcanic materials in the area have eroded over time, the imprint of the glacier has become visible in the salt deposits.
The study suggests that the leftover glacier must be geologically relatively young, possibly from the Amazonian period – the most recent geological period that includes modern Mars.
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