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Mars is coming out of an ice age

Scientists have suspected in recent years that Mars is going through a kind of global warming process. New information emerging from data launched by the Mars Odyssey spacecraft indicates the possibility that Mars is emerging from an ice age

Mars warming
Mars warming

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has been observing Mars for almost an entire Martian year, and it has detected seasonal changes such as the advance and retreat of ice at the poles. It also gathers information about a possible long-term trend.

There seems to be too much frozen water in low latitude regions - away from the cold poles - according to the current climate of Mars. The situation is not in equilibrium, said William Feldman of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"One explanation might be that Mars is now coming out of an ice age," Feldman said. "In some low latitude areas the ice has already depleted. In others the process is slower and has not yet reached equilibrium. These areas are like patches of snow, which sometimes remain in protected areas after the last snowfall for the winter."

Frozen water constitutes up to about ten percent of the upper, meter-thick layer of the earth's surface in some areas close to the equator. Dust deposits may be covering and insulating the lingering ice, Feldman said.

Feldman is the chief scientist of a facility on the Mars Odyssey, which estimates the water content indirectly by measuring neutron emissions. He and other Odyssey scientists described their latest findings today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

"Odyssey is giving us clues about the process of global warming on Mars," said Jeffrey Plaut, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

For high latitude regions on Mars, layers with variable ice content in the half-meter thick top soil layer, researchers concluded from mapping the amount of hydrogen, which was based on gamma ray emissions.

"The model that fits the data has three layers near the surface," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona in Tucson, team leader of the Gamma-ray Spectrometer Facility on Odyssey. "The uppermost layer will be dry and free of ice. The next layer will contain ice in the pores between the soil grains. Below that will be a very rich layer, 60 to 100 percent water ice."

Boynton the richest layer of ice as a deposit of snow or frost mixed with a little dust from an era when the climate was cooler than today. The middle layer may be the result of changes, which brought about a warmer era, in which deep ice disappeared into the atmosphere. The dust, left behind, collapsed into a layer of soil with a minority of pores for the returning ice.

More research is needed to determine for sure what is going on there.

Other devices on the Odyssey provide other pieces of the puzzle. Images from the camera system were combined to create the most detailed map of the south polar region of Mars yet made.

"Now we can accurately count craters in the layers of material of the polar regions to get an idea of ​​their age," said Phil Christensen of the University of Arizona, Tampa, who is in charge of the camera system.

Information about the temperatures, obtained from the infrared cameras of the camera system, provided a surprise regarding dark areas, which dot light areas of seasonal carbon dioxide ice.

"These dark areas look like places where there is no ice, but infrared thermal maps show that even in the dark areas the temperatures are so low that there must be carbon dioxide ice." Christensen said. "One possibility is that the ice in these areas is so thin that we can see what's going on under the ice."

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One response

  1. You have to hit hard

    A few hydrogen bombs at the poles and everything will be full of water 🙂

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