Mars has quite a bit more water than previously thought, according to a new report in the journal Science. NASA said its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted ice at five new Martian craters, likely kicked up by meteor impacts [Reuters]. It’s no surprise that the NASA orbiter found water, it’s the size of the find—twice as much as in Greenland’s ice sheet—that surprised scientists. The ice is just under the surface, so it was only visible after the recent meteor impacts.
The ice was found half way between the north pole and the equator, which is the farthest south ice has been found on Mars. Scientists believe that water once flowed across the planet, but most thought the surface had been largely dry and parched, with planet-wide dust storms, for billions of years. They had long known that water ice and carbon dioxide ice accumulated at the poles in winter, but until now, they had no idea how far from the poles the underground ice sheet extended [Los Angeles Times].
This image shows two craters with blueish ice, which—when exposed to the Martian atmosphere—sublimates over the course of 15 weeks.
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Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems