(CNN) The remains of a glacier have been located close to the Martian equator, suggesting that some kind of water may possibly nonetheless exist in a area on the Red Planet exactly where humans could 1 day land.

The ice mass is gone, but scientists have spotted telltale remnants amongst other mineral deposits close to Mars’ equatorial area. The deposits there ordinarily include light-colored sulfate salts.

When scientists took a closer appear, they recognized options of the glacier, like ridges known as moraines—debris deposited or pushed by the moving glacier. The study group also spotted fields of crevasses, or deep wedge-shaped openings, forming inside the glacier.

The findings had been shared Wednesday at the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

“What we located is not ice, but a salt deposit with the detailed morphological options of a glacier,” lead study author Dr. Pascal Li, a senior planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute, mentioned in a statement.

“What we consider occurred right here is that the salt formed on best of the glacier though preserving the shape of the ice under, down to particulars like fissure fields and moraine bands.”

Researchers think the glacier was three.7 miles (six kilometers) lengthy and two.five miles (about four kilometers) wide, with an elevation of in between .eight and 1.1 miles (1.three to 1.7 kilometers).

Volcanic activity creates a protective layer

Scientists have an notion of ​​how the glacier’s footprint was formed, primarily based on proof of volcanic material in the area. When mixtures of volcanic ash, lava, and volcanic glass known as pumice react with water, a difficult, crusty layer of salt can kind.

This annotated image shows all the particulars of exactly where the glacier when existed.

“This area of Mars has a history of volcanic activity. And exactly where some of the volcanic material came into speak to with the glacier ice, chemical reactions would have occurred at the interface in between them to kind a hardened layer of sulfate salts,” mentioned study co-author Sourabh Shubham, a student in geology at the University of Maryland, College Park, in a statement.

“This is the most probably explanation for the hydrated and hydroxylated sulfates we observe in this vibrant deposit.”

Geologically young surface ice close to the equator

The volcanic material probably eroded more than time, revealing a salt layer that captured the glacier’s ice footprint and its distinctive options, mentioned study co-author John Schutt, a geologist at the Mars Institute and a guide to Arctic and Antarctic ice fields.

Mars has a thin atmosphere, which makes it possible for space rocks to consistently collide with the planet’s surface. But the glacier’s fine, detailed options nonetheless stay largely undisturbed by the salt deposits, major researchers to think it is reasonably “young.”

The authors of the study mentioned they consider the glacier existed throughout the geological period on Mars, which started two.9 billion years ago and is nonetheless ongoing.

The map shows exactly where the remains of glaciers have been located close to the Martian equator.

“We’ve identified of glacial activity on Mars in lots of areas, like close to the equator in the distant previous. And we know of current glacial activity on Mars, but so far, only at greater latitudes,” Lee mentioned. “The reasonably young relict glacier at this place tells us that Mars has not too long ago knowledgeable surface ice, even close to the equator, which is new.”

Researchers do not know if ice remains beneath the bed.

“Water ice is presently not steady on the quite surface of Mars close to the equator at these altitudes,” Lee mentioned. “So it really is not surprising that we do not detect any water ice at the surface. It is probable that all the water ice from the glacier has sublimated by now. But there is also a likelihood that some of it will nonetheless be protected at a shallow depth beneath the sulfate salts.”

Prospective for shallow ice pockets

In the course of the study, the group also looked at ancient ice islands known as salaris in the Bolivian Altiplano salt flats in South America. The salt blankets protected the old glacier ice from melting or evaporating, major researchers to consider that a comparable situation could take place on Mars.

Information of the glacier can be noticed in this higher-resolution image.

Subsequent, the researchers want to ascertain irrespective of whether ice remains from the glacier, and if so, how significantly is present at shallow depths beneath the salt deposits. If this certain deposit of salt is guarding the ice, it is probable that there are other pockets of ice nearby.

Orbiters circling the planet have shown ice deposits at the frigid Martian poles, but if water exists in any kind at the warmer equatorial reduced latitudes, it could have implications for our understanding of the red planet’s history and prospective habitability—and future human exploration.

“The wish to land humans at a place exactly where they could extract water ice from the ground pushed mission planners to contemplate greater latitude areas,” Lee mentioned. “But the latter atmosphere is ordinarily colder and additional difficult for humans and robots.” If there had been equatorial areas exactly where ice could be located at a shallow depth, then we would have the ideal of each worlds: warmer circumstances for human exploration and nonetheless access to ice.”

By Editor

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