Scales tipped by “groundbreaking find” on Mars

A new space discovery has suggested that a form of water may be present in certain regions on Mars.

Scientists have revealed the remains of a glacier near the Martian equator, indicating that a form of water still exists in an area on the Red Planet.

The great discovery

  • The discovered glacier no longer exists, but scientists have spotted remnants of mineral deposits near the equatorial region of Mars. The sediments there usually contain light-colored sulfate salts.
  • When the scientists took a closer look, they identified features of a glacier, including ridges deposited or pushed by a moving glacier.
  • The research team also discovered fault fields, or deep wedge-shaped openings, of the kind that form inside glaciers.
  • The results were shared last Wednesday at the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in the Woodlands, Texas, USA.

What did the finder say?

  • “What we found is not ice, but rather a salt deposit with the detailed morphological features of a glacier,” study senior author Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute, said in a statement.
  • 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 strips.
  • Researchers believe that the glacier was 6 kilometers long and about 4 kilometers wide.

What will happen now?

  • The researchers now want to determine if there is any ice left from the glacier, and if so, how much is there at the shallow depths beneath the salt deposits.
  • If these salt deposits protect the ice, other pockets of ice are likely in the vicinity.
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Why do we want to discover water on Mars?

  • Orbiters around the planet have shown deposits of ice at the frigid poles of Mars, but if water in any form is present at warmer low equatorial latitudes, it could have implications for our understanding of the red planet’s habitable history and potential for future exploration by humans.
  • “If there are tropical locations where ice can be found at shallow depths, we will have the best of both worlds: warmer conditions for human exploration while still having access to ice,” Pascal Lee said.

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