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December 17, 2021 - A European Mars orbiter has found water ice in the heart of the Valles Marineris canyon system – an area about the size of the Netherlands.
Water ice may be lying just centimetres below the Martian surface at one of the planet’s most well known sites – the Valles Marineris, a huge 3,000 kilometre-long canyon system located along the equator of Mars.
Ten times longer and five times deeper than the Grand Canyon on Earth, the Valles Marineris is named after NASA’s Mariner 9 Mars orbiter which discovered it in 1971.
Now, 50 years later, the ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has identified vast amounts of hydrogen in the soil’s upper surface layers at the centre of the canyon.
Alexey Malakhov, a senior scientist at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and one of the nine authors a new paper on the subject, says “We found a central part of Valles Marineris to be packed full of water — far more water than we expected. This is very much like Earth’s permafrost regions, where water ice permanently persists under dry soil because of the constant low temperatures”.
Researchers added that if all of the hydrogen they have detected is present in the form of water ice, the compound could make up as much as 40% of near-surface material in the area.
- Researchers discover water in expansive canyon on Mars (UPI)
- Scientists spot water ice under the 'Grand Canyon' of Mars (Space.com)
- The evidence for unusually high hydrogen abundances in the central part of Valles Marineris on Mars (ScienceDirect)
- ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (ESA)
- Martian snow is dusty and could potentially melt (SpaceRef)