Deep Scar on Mars’ Face Shows Ice Buried Beneath the Surface, Could Be Very, Very Old

It’s not a secret anymore that Mars has ice. We generally find it at the poles, in the form of ice caps. It comes to be after water vapor reaches the poles and freezes. It’s not such an abundant quantity of water, but since it gets mixed with sand, it quickly forms thick deposits.
Cut on Martian surface reveals subsurface ice 7 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona
Cut on Martian surface reveals subsurface iceLayers in the Arabia Terra region of MarsArabia Terra region of MarsArabia Terra region of MarsArabia Terra region of MarsArabia Terra region of Mars
Another way Martian ice forms is through the freezing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which then gets deposited on top of the existing water ice layers. Then you have water trapped as permafrost around the polar regions – that’s the ice that is lurking right beneath the surface and is the hardest to get to and analyze one way or another.

Such subsurface ice can also be found at mid-latitudes, and if it weren’t for cliff cuts in the surface layers, we wouldn’t know it’s there.

Such a large cut, a scar over the reddish soil, is seen in this image here, snapped by the HiRISE camera from an altitude of 251 km (156 miles) back in July 2022. It shows an unnamed region of the planet, a place where the “ground is uniform and dusty and does not reveal many clues about what lies beneath the surface.”

The said cut does however reveal “a glimpse of this buried icy material,” and it’s even more important because of the fact the cliff is “one example out of a few dozen that are known.”

Scientists from the University of Arizona, which run the HiRISE camera, explain what we see here is ice (the bright material on the cliff face), present only on the side of the cliff that points away from the equator, from where the Sun shines.

The bands we see running the length of the visible portion of the cliff are of unknown origin, but they “might indicate layers in the ice that record different climate conditions,” and if that’s true, it’s extremely important for the people looking at Mars in an attempt of making sense of the place before we really start colonizing the place, as it may shed more light on the planet’s past.

Scientists say it’s unknown “how much time this ice took to accumulate here,” but what we see could be tens of millions of years old.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows Arabia Terra region of Mars.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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