Feeds

Martian pole capped by planet swamping ice sheet

There's ice in them thar hills

The next step in data security

The southern pole of Mars is hidden beneath a "deep and wide" layer of ice - enough that if it melted*, it would cover the whole planet in a sea 36 feet deep. Shallow for a sea, but still a fair quantity of aqua.

The findings are published in the 15 March online edition of the journal Science. Lead author Jeffrey Plaut said: "The south polar layered deposits of Mars cover an area bigger than Texas. The amount of water they contain has been estimated before, but never with the level of confidence this radar makes possible."

The precise measurements were taken with MARSIS, a joint NASA Italian Space Agency instrument on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. The radar instrument can see through the ice to the ground below. At its deepest, this is 2.3km below the surface of the ice.

Giovanni Picardi, professor at the University of Rome, and principal investigator for the instrument commented: "MARSIS is showing itself to be a very powerful tool to probe underneath the Martian surface...the details we are seeing are truly amazing."

He added that the instrument is still to be fine tuned, and should soon be capable of producing even more detailed information on the composition of the surface and subsurface.

So far, there is one signal that has puzzled the scientists: at the base of one layer of ice, there is a particularly light reflection. The characteristics are such that if it were warmer, the team would confidently identify it as liquid water. But it so cold that liquid water is extremely unlikely, the researchers say.

These polar layered deposits hold most of the water on Mars, and extend beyond a bright white polar cap of frozen carbon dioxide. The radar pings suggest that 90 per cent of the material below the polar cap is frozen water. ®

*Not on our list of likely events, either.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.