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Climate Change on Mars: Ice Age Coming to an End

May 31, 2016 03:22 AM EDT
Storm Engulfs the Planet Mars
By comparing images of the red planet, researchers and scientists were able to determine the movements of ice on the polar cap of Mars. A recent study suggests that Mars is already emerging from an ice age.
(Photo : NASA/Getty Images)

Mars is the second smallest planet in the Solar System. Despite its desolate state today, NASA is geared towards reaching Mars as it is considered as a potentially habitable planet.

The planet shows signs that water forms once existed in it, and minerals are buried beneath its surface. But scientists are still carefully examining the changing climate on Mars. Recent findings of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), when compared to older records, show that climate change is occurring on the red planet and scientists suggest that Mars is emerging from an ice age, a cycle which occurs over and over again in billions of years interval.

A recent finding was published by NASA in the journal of Science and the paper explains how the ice moves on the planet's polar cap. The paper also indicated that the glacial period on Mars ended about 400,000 years ago.

"The layers in the upper few hundred meters display features that indicate a period of erosion, followed by a period of rapid accumulation that is still occurring today," said planetary scientist Isaac Smith, the study's lead author, in a press release by NASA.

According to reports, it is believed that Mars went through several cycles of ice ages, although no exact figures are available.

Smith, the lead author, also thinks that how the planet lost its water content is important in understanding the processes which occurred before Mars became desolate. Smith added that the key to understanding Mars is to find out where the water previously thrived. After that, men will be sent to Mars eventually to study the locations and to find water deposits which are essential in sustaining life.

"At some point, we're going to have some people there and we'd like to know where the water is. So there's a big search for that." Said Smith in a statement published by The Verge. NASA, ESA and other space agencies are working towards sending men to the red planet in 2030, if not earlier.

The study added that Mars, bearing similarities with the Earth, can helpfully explain the future Earth in various ways.

NASA released a 3D image of Chasma Boreale, a 350-mile canyon on the polar cap of Mars. The movement of accumulated ice on the polar caps can be seen by comparing images taken of the red planet.

"We found an accelerated accumulation rate of ice in the uppermost 100 to 300 meters of the polar cap," Isaac Smith said in a statement published by The Telegraph.

According to the study, the current thickness and volume of the ice coincide with the prediction in early 2000.


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