Wednesday, June 20, 2018 | Updated at 6:57 PM ET


Gigantic ice sheet found under Mars surface

First Posted: Nov 28, 2016 05:56 AM EST
Nadir view of the Martian North Pole.

Photo : Stocktrek Images

Eleven and a half years ago, a spacecraft called the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) set up on a mission to Mars. Right now the MRO continues to orbit around Mars. The Red Planet has always intrigued scientists, as it's a place that's so mysterious to many.

On January 2002, NASA has found evidence that water exists on Mars. On that mission, The Mars Odyssey space probe captured some breathtaking pictures of frozen ice on the poles of Mars. But during that time, it could not conduct studies deeper than the surface.

As time passed, technologies became more advanced. On August 2005, NASA has launched their MRO space probe, which is specially equipped with Ground Penetrating Radar that can detect objects underneath the Martian surface.

The MRO have discovered that Mars's Utopia Planitia basin has concealed an almost 260 to 560 feet thick ice sheet, which is larger than the area of the US state of New Mexico. The discovery of life on Mars may have been significantly possible if the discovery revealed water instead; such, of course, would have been evident in the radar scans.

So now, the concept that Mars only has ice on either of its poles has become outdated. Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers discovered that the Red Planet has hydrated mineral signatures on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen.

These discoveries are more important for people to understand Mars' past because alongside Earth, it has long orbited within the so-called "Goldilocks Zone" within the solar system. Whereas Earth went on to support life, the entirety of Mars became a desert.

Scientists reported that the discovered ice sheet likely accumulated as part of a Martian ice age and was buried before it could melt into a lake or evaporate into space. Perhaps this research will perform an important role in the future to create a Martian colony. 

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