Massive water reservoir discovered on Mars

Water on Mars (Source: Nasa)

Boffins from The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Arizona in the US have estimated a huge ice deposits in the region which would cover the planet in 1.5 metres of water. They founded one of the largest water lake on Mars, in the form of ice layers which lay to rest over a kilometre under the surface. The study may reveal that whether in the past, the Red Planet was inhabitable.

Scientists made this discovery using quantification gathered by the Shallow Radar (SHARAD) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). However, SHARAD discharge radar waves that can penetrate upto a miles and a half under the surface of Mars.

This research was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. This is important because the layers of ice are a record of past climate on Mars in the same way that tree rings are a record of past climate on Earth. Scientists said that after Studying the geometry and configuration of these layers, they could tell that whether the climate conditions were earlier commendatory for life.

In some places, a team found a layers of sand and ice that there were as much as 90 per cent water.

“We didn’t expect to find this much water ice here. That likely makes it the third largest water reservoir on Mars after the polar ice caps,” said Stefano Nerozzi, a graduate research assistant at the University of Texas.

According to the scientists the layers formed when ice collected at the poles during past ice ages
on Mars. Each time the planet got hotter, a leftovers of the ice caps place under cover by sand, due to which the ice was saved from solar radiation and averted it from vanishing into the airspace.

Till today, researchers thought that the past ice caps were vanished. This research also shows that in fact ice sheet leftovers have sustained beneath the planet’s surface like layers on a cake.

The study gives a new intuition into the exchange of water ice between the poles and the midlatitudes. Earlier, by using the SHARAD instrument, this group had confirmed the existence of extensive glaciers.

“Surprisingly, the total volume of water locked up in these buried polar deposits is roughly the same as all the water ice known to exist in glaciers and buried ice layers at lower latitudes on Mars, and they are approximately the same age,” said Jack Holt, a professor at the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory of
the University of Arizona.

Nerozzi said that studying this record of past polar glaciation could assist in deciding whether Mars was ever inhabitable. In inclusion he said that it’s important to understand how much water was available globally versus what’s trapped in the poles is important if you’re going to have liquid water on Mars. And that, you could have all the right conditions for life, but if most of the water is locked up at the poles, then it becomes difficult to have subsequent amounts of liquid water near the equator.