Massive layered slabs of buried water ice, several kilometers thick, have been discovered during a recent radar survey of the Medusae Fossae Formation region on the Martian equator.
As the largest amount of water ever discovered in the vicinity of Mars’ center, it shows that the previously believed barren dustball isn’t entirely devoid of water.
According to scientists, the amount of water buried there is equivalent to that of Earth’s Red Sea; if it were to melt and rise to the surface, it would cover Mars with a shallow ocean that is between 1.5 and 2.7 meters (4.9 and 8.9 feet) deep.
When the first signs of the buried deposits were discovered in 2007 at a depth of 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles), scientists were unsure of what to make of them. Much more information about the deposits than anticipated has been made available thanks to new data and analytical tools.
Huge deposits known as the Medusae Fossae Formation stretch roughly 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) along Mars’ equator, dividing the planet’s lowlands in the north from its cratered highlands in the south.
Radar data gathered by Watters and his team in 2007 clearly indicated the existence of something buried beneath the surface. It was unclear what exactly that something was. The deposits may have been buried in dust, considering how dusty the Medusae Fossae Formation is. They might have also been water ice, sediment from earlier, wetter ages, or, most intriguingly, volcanic material.
To try to determine what is hidden beneath the wind-blown dust and stone, the researchers gathered fresh radar observations of the area, examined the data, and ran simulations. Only water ice was found to be a good fit for the data.
The last few decades have seen a significant shift in our understanding of the dead dust-ball as Mars exploration has increased. Mars has evidence of water flowing over its surface in rivers and collecting in lakes and oceans everywhere we look.
The finding gives rise to the possibility that water may be hiding somewhere on Mars. It also provides scientists with fresh information in their quest to understand the mysterious past and current transformation of Mars.