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Scientists Find Texas-Sized Water Ice on Mars

FutureGM

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Mars is unlikely to sport beachfront property anytime soon, but the planet has enough water ice at its south pole to blanket the entire planet in more than 30 feet of water if everything thawed out.

With a radar technique, astronomers have penetrated for the first time about 2.5 miles (nearly four kilometers) beneath the south pole?s frozen surface. The data showed that nearly pure water ice lies beneath.

Discovered in the early 1970s, layered deposits of ice and dust cap the North and South Poles of Mars. Until now, the deposits have been difficult to study closely with existing telescopes and satellites. The current advance comes from a probe of the deposits using an instrument aboard the Mars Express orbiter.

?This is the first time that a ground-penetrating system has ever been used on Mars,? said the new radar study?s lead author, Jeffrey Plaut of NASA?s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ?All the other instruments used to study the surface of Mars in the past really have only been sensitive to what occurs at the very surface.?

(NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft also carries instruments designed, among other things, to probe beneath icy polar surfaces.)

Deep probe
Plaut and his colleagues probed the deposits with radar echo sounding, typically used on Earth to study the interiors of glaciers. The instrument, called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding, or MARSIS, beams radio waves which penetrate the planet?s surface and bounce off features having different electrical properties.

The reflected beams revealed that 90 percent or more of the frozen polar material is pure water ice, sprinkled with dust particles. The scientists calculated that the water would form a 36-foot-deep ocean of sorts if spread over the Martian globe.

?It?s the best evidence that?s been obtained to date for that thickness,? said Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz., who studies the Martian polar regions. He was not involved in the current study.

Scientists have long known that Mars? north polar cap is a massive storehouse of water ice, and the current research team says they will use their radar technique to refine past estimates of its thickness and make-up.

?These polar ice deposits are by far the largest reservoir of water or water ice that we know of on Mars,? Plaut said.

That?s a lot of water, but not enough to account for the flowing streams thought to meander along Mars? surface in the past.

?There?s evidence that about 10 times or maybe even 100 times that much water has flowed across the surface of Mars to carve the various channels, the outflow valleys and other features we see in the images and topography data,? Plaut told SPACE.com.

So where?s the rest of the water? One idea is that a subterranean plumbing system once ferried loads of water beneath the Martian surface. Plaut said his team also will search for underground pools with the radar technique.

Martian beach
A Martian water-world is unlikely in the near future, but astronomers have solid evidence that billions of years ago water flowed over the Martian surface. And recently, evidence has pointed to a warming trend as Mars emerges from an ?ice age.?

Scientists think variations in Mars? orbit and tilt drive the planet?s climate over time, though a few astronomers have speculated about how the Sun?s activity could be partly to blame for warming on several planets.

In addition to warming from the atmosphere, ice-thawing heat could come from the core of Mars, analogous to the plumes of heat that cause volcanic eruptions on Earth. But evidence from the new radar study suggests the Martian crust is icy cold and rigid.

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OMG Mars is experiencing global warming! We need to get Gore out there and tell them to stop driving SUVs and having two refrigerators in their houses.
 

Jimmy42Jack0

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OMG Mars is experiencing global warming! We need to get Gore out there and tell them to stop driving SUVs and having two refrigerators in their houses.
hey on the bright side...at least bush cant contribute to screwing up mars
 

MarlinFan10

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Global Warming on Mars is a great thing. Mars needs way more CO2 though.
 

The_Punisher

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I've always known there is something more than just planet Earth with such a big universe I have always been amazed by what out of space had to offer. I've always believed that instead of scientist wasting their time exploring our waters they should focus more on our galaxy. This is a great find which proves that if life doesn't exist in Mars, it certainly will in the coming future.
 

juanpierre

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I've always known there is something more than just planet Earth with such a big universe I have always been amazed by what out of space had to offer. I've always believed that instead of scientist wasting their time exploring our waters they should focus more on our galaxy. This is a great find which proves that if life doesn't exist in Mars, it certainly will in the coming future.

Are you using a technique called sarcasm?
 

MarlinFan10

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I've always known there is something more than just planet Earth with such a big universe I have always been amazed by what out of space had to offer. I've always believed that instead of scientist wasting their time exploring our waters they should focus more on our galaxy. This is a great find which proves that if life doesn't exist in Mars, it certainly will in the coming future.
Are you cereal? Life will exist on Mars, but we'll be the ones who will put it there.
 

FlummoxedLummox

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If you are talking about terraforming, humans will be long wiped out before that becomes a reality.

Part of me isn't even convinced a human being will even ever land on Mars (this has nothing to do with technical capabilities per se).
Wow you're pessimistic! :lol

So how many years do we have left as a species? 50? 100? 150? Or is that too optimistic?
 

Hotcorner

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Are you saying you think we'll be wiped out as a species before we land on Mars?

I'll make that bet with you. :shifty
 

OldSand

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I mentioned this in another thread.

The chances of an epidemic coming along (ala the bird flu) are highly probable within the next century are highly probable. We saw something similar with the Spanish flu, but the potential new mutated strain is likely to be much more scary. While this isn't exactly my area of study, it is something that interests me and have spoken to a number of people at the hospital about it in passing.

The possibility of that killing over half of the world is not out of the question. I'm not being negative.


I find the prospect of me viewing the waning days of our species' timeline to be very exciting.

lol.

I wanna meet you dude. comin down to Mia for some Marlins games this season?
 

MarlinFan10

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I mentioned this in another thread.

The chances of an epidemic coming along (ala the bird flu) are highly probable within the next century are highly probable. We saw something similar with the Spanish flu, but the potential new mutated strain is likely to be much more scary. While this isn't exactly my area of study, it is something that interests me and have spoken to a number of people at the hospital about it in passing.

The possibility of that killing over half of the world is not out of the question. I'm not being negative.


I find the prospect of me viewing the waning days of our species' timeline to be very exciting.
I'm sure you'd like to believe you're living in the most important and dangerous time in human histroy.
If Europe can survive the plague, I'm pretty sure the human species will make it past an epidemic today no matter how deadly it is. Even with nuclear war, it will be hard to completley wipe out the human species. There have been setbacks in human histroy (see: The Dark Ages) but humans will stick around for a long time unless a giant comet or asteroid packs enough of a punch to destroy us. The fact is one day humans will somehow colonize other planets someday and Mars is one of the first steps.
 

FlummoxedLummox

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Penguino, I don't disagree that we as a species are at risk from evolving viruses, but I'm less inclined to believe that we would be completely erradicated as you seem to be suggesting. You are putting all of your faith into the evolutionary superiority of the virus, but what change has occured to make you so sure that this superiority will be immediately realized? I would suggest that if illness was to be the ultimate undoing of our species, treatment-resistent bacteria would be the culprits. If there is any organism which humans continually put through the ringer of "forced evolution" it's the bacterium. We're constantly exposing it to more and more antibiotics, thus forcing it to adapt, and at some point one of those critters is gonna mutate into an ultra potent new infection.

Healthwise, though, I'm most concerned with the unknown longterm effects of all the chemicals we're exposing ourselves to. Who knows what sort of potential genetic or congenital defects these chemicals and hormones cause among newer generations who are exposed to them? Certainly autism rates have increased tremendously in the past few years and no one really knows why. What else is occuring?
 

MarlinFan10

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As far as beating the Reds is concerned, look at the Chinese. They certainly got us motivated to plan a permanent base on the moon. Thanks to Chinese competition, our space program should recieve a revival. That, and private space endeavors are in their infancy pretty much right now.
 

MarlinFan10

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It will be decades before people even talk about putting a base on the moon. I don't even think they've decided on a vehicle to replace the STS yet.
NASA has planned to have a permanently staffed moon base up and running in 2024. It's been talked about today, and will be built in our lifetimes. You've had to had heard about that story or you're extremely misinformed about space exploration. :rolleyes:
 

yankeefan21

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Here's an interesting article concerning the Mars ice discovery as it relates to global warming:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/20...rs-warming.html
This is actually old news that references a portion of the theory of Milankovitch cycles, which have proven difficult to substantiate. I wonder if they see this as an opportunity to compare extraterrestrial data to our own.

Good luck obtaining a core sample - I don't think Bear is up to the task anymore... he has given enough for this planet! Besides, I think NASA is out of Armadillos.
 

Hotcorner

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Certainly autism rates have increased tremendously in the past few years and no one really knows why.
Off-topic, but I've read that one of the factors here is that in decades past autism was much more narrowly defined. It's not so much that rates have increased as that we're diagnosing many people autistic now that would've been diagnosed as something else in the past.

Probably not the whole story though.


Back on-topic, it's hard to project a manned trip to Mars or to the moon for that matter. The "better faster cheaper" NASA is unmanned vehicles (i.e. Mars Rover). When I was younger I figured that space exploration would really start speeding up because private companies would get involved. But it's still awfully cost-prohibitive.

Presidents love to talk about space exploration in their incoming State of the Union speeches, then you never hear it again.
 

Hotcorner

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oh I tend to agree actually. NASA has slowed to a crawl and most of it is due to budget constraints. I'm a big supporter of NASA but there just isn't the importance given to the space program that there once was.

We're just happy to get a shuttle launched safely these days. The ISS seems like a giant waste, and even the shuttle program is based on 30 year old technology at this point. It costs $10 thousand per pound for payload and the price hasn't dropped at all. The shuttles did a great job, now get over the damn thing already & build something cutting edge!

I almost PREFER the unmanned spacecraft route these days. You can build/send them a hell of a lot cheaper and if they DO crash there's a lot less at stake. If money weren't an issue I'd say sure let's build space hotels and basketball courts on the moon and trips to Uranus. Unfortunately it's just not a top priority. We're talking waaaaay down the list of things the American public is interested in or concerned about.
 

Hotcorner

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Well I didn't want to hurt the shuttle's feelings....




In any case it's so outdated it's ridiculous, yet they continue to pour money into it.
 

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