A cross-section of underground ice is exposed at the steep slope that appears bright blue in this enhanced-color view from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scene is about 550 yards wide. The scarp drops about 140 yards from the level ground in the upper third of the image.Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS
This could be a game changer–and quite the about face since the past several months of news gathered have reinforced the notion that no water at all existed..
As reported in the journal Science (paywall), the water was found in both the north and south of Mars, at latitudes equivalent to South America and Scotland. The exposed areas were found on scarps as steep as 55 degrees. Based on the absence of craters in the regions, scientists believe that the features formed relatively recently.
“The discovery reported today gives us surprising windows where we can see right into these thick underground sheets of ice,” study co-author Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona told NASA. “It’s like having one of those ant farms where you can see through the glass on the side to learn about what’s usually hidden beneath the ground.”
Researchers found the scarp sites by gauging colors using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the MRO, and confirmed its purity using CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging spectrometer for Mars). The orbiter has previously found extensive ice sheets at other locations on Mars using its Shallow Radar camera, but it was impossible to say how deep it was. Now, scientists know that it’s close enough to access with relative ease.