High-definition Images Reveal 3D Structure of Ice Sheets on Mars

High-definition images have revealed the 3D structure of large subsurface ice sheets on Mars, a first.

The images were captured using the HiRISE instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and analyzed by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey. Their analysis revealed new details about the ice deposits’ composition, vertical structure and thickness.

NASA scientists identified eight locations in the mid-latitudes where ice has become exposed on the eroded, pole-facing slopes known as scarps. MRO and its HiRISE instrument targeted the eight sites.

The ice deposits are encased by only a thin layer of ice-cemented rock and dust, beneath which lies mostly pure water ice. The deposits could provide future manned missions to Mars with a steady water supply.

Scientists believe the icy deposits can prove as scientifically useful as ice and sediment cores collected on Earth. The varied layers can offer insights into Mars’ geology and climate history.

Early analysis of the newly imaged ice deposits — described this week in the journal Science — has already confirmed scientists basic understanding of Mars’ climatic past.

“This [research] supports models for snowfall and accumulation in the geologically recent past,” Colin Dundas, a researcher with the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, told UPI in an email.

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SOURCE: UPI, Brooks Hays