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Future Water Resource? Mars Ice Deposit Have as Much Water as Lake Superior, Says NASA

Nov 23, 2016 04:16 AM EST
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The Red Planet holds enough water to fill Lake Superior, the greatest of the Great Lakes, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed.

Scientists examined Mars' Utopia Planitia region (which loosely translates to "plains of paradise") using the orbiter's ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument, and found an ice deposit even bigger than the state of New Mexico in land area. Based on scans, the ice deposit ranges in thickness from about 260 feet (80 meters) to about 560 feet (170 meters), with a composition that's 50 to 85 percent water ice, mixed with dust or larger rocky particles.

"This deposit probably formed as snowfall accumulating into an ice sheet mixed with dust during a period in Mars history when the planet's axis was more tilted than it is today," Cassie Stuurman of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas, Austin and the lead author of a report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters said, writes Science Daily.

NASA further stated that right now Mars, with an axial tilt of 25 degrees, collects large amounts of water ice at the poles. In cycles lasting about 120,000 years, the tilt varies to nearly twice that much, heating the poles and driving ice to middle latitudes. Climate modeling and previous findings of buried, mid-latitude ice indicate that frozen water accumulates away from the poles during high-tilt periods.

As to possibilities of using Mars' ice deposit as a possible water resource in the future or as an evidence that life in the Red Planet is likely after all, the space agency made it clear that Utopian water is all frozen now. If there were a melted layer -- which would be significant for the possibility of life on Mars -- it would have been evident in the radar scans. However, some melting can't be ruled out during different climate conditions when the planet's axis was more tilted, an article published on the website of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports.

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