Vast New Reservoir of Water Ice Has Been Found Beneath Mars' North Pole



One of the most profound similarities between Earth and Mars, one which makes it a popular target for research and exploration, is the presence of water ice on its surface (mainly in the form of its polar ice caps).

But perhaps even more interesting is the presence of glaciers beneath the surface, which is something scientists have speculated about long before their presence was confirmed.

These caches of subsurface water could tell us a great deal about Martian history, and could even be an invaluable resource if humans ever choose to make Mars their home someday.

According to a recent study by a pair of scientists from the Universities of Texas at Austin and Arizona, there are also layers of ice beneath the northern polar ice cap that could be the largest reservoir of water on the planet.

The findings were the subject of a study that was recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The study was led by Stefano Nerozzi, a graduate student from the University of Texas at Austin'sInstitute of Geophysics (UTIG) and was assisted by Jack Holt of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL).

For the sake of their study, Nerozzi and Holt relied on data gathered by the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's (MRO) – which is capable of penetrating up to 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) beneath the surface using radar waves.

What they reported was the discovery of several layers of sand and ice roughly 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) beneath Mars' north pole.

These layers were found to be 90 percent water in some places, and are believed to be the remnants of ancient polar ice sheets.

If melted, the researchers indicate that they would create a global ocean with a depth of at least 1.5 meters (5 feet). As Nerozzi explained in a UT News press release, this find was quite surprising.

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