Home South pole ice Mars snow is dusty and could even melt into liquid water

Mars snow is dusty and could even melt into liquid water

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NASA’s Phoenix lander captured this view of frozen water in a scuffed surface of Mars in 2008.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona / Texas A&M University

This story is part of Welcome to mars, our series exploring the red planet.

In 2008, NASA announced that its Phoenix lander had confirmed the presence of water ice near the surface of Mars. A team of researchers took a new look at what Phoenix found, combined it with data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and used computer simulations to better understand ice dust and what it can do to us. tell about the climate history of Mars.

Unsurprisingly, the snow of Mars contains dust. “The dustier the ice, the darker and therefore warmer the ice becomes, which can affect both its stability and its course over time,” Arizona State University said in a statement last week. “Under certain conditions, it could also mean that the ice could melt on Mars.”

The team’s article on Martian ice was accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

“There is a chance that this dusty, black ice will melt a few inches away,” said planetologist Aditya Khuller, lead author of the article. “And any underground liquid water produced by the melt will be protected from evaporation in the vaporous atmosphere of Mars by the overlying ice cover.”

Research indicates that the ice studied by Phoenix comes from dusty snowfall over the past million years. It will require additional work to determine if the ice could actually melt into liquid water, but it’s an intriguing idea.

Understanding the water on Mars is essential to understanding the chances that the Red Planet may have harbored microbial life. March today is dry, dusty and very cold, which makes it quite inhospitable, although a study earlier this year suggested Earth microbes could temporarily survive on Mars.


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Ice on Mars could also be important for future human visitors who will need water resources. In 2019, NASA released a “treasure map” of water ice that could potentially be reached by astronauts.

The history of water on Mars is complex and often mysterious. Some recent studies had suggested that there might be brackish lakes hidden at the planet’s south pole, but new evidence supports they could in fact be frozen clays. that of NASA The Perseverance rover is currently checking an old lake bed in Jezero Crater looking for signs of ancient microbial life.

The new study on Martian snow and dust gives scientists one more piece to place in Mars’ largest water puzzle. Could there be pockets of puddles on Mars? May be. You might want to wrap a straw just in case.

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