A recent scientific study has shown that the relief of the Martian Arcadia Planitia is very similar to ice flows under the ice shelves of Antarctica. If there really are glaciers under the layer of Martian dust, scientists will have a good reason to send the next Martian robotic mission there.
10 things you need to know about Arcadia Planitia and the new type of glacier on Mars
1. The Arcadia Planitia is located in the northern parts of Mars. The lava flows that flowed through it no more than 3 million years ago made it flat and even. The region is young which means that there are not as many craters so far in comparison to other regions on the Red Planet.
2. According to data from satellites, the surface there is rich in hydrogen. This suggests that there may be water ice near the surface.
3. The authors of the study say that most of these features of the relief are similar to the flows of ice in ice shelves on Earth. The problem is that we and we do not quite understand these faster ice flows, let alone Mars.
4. The plain is one of the most promising locations for a future manned mission to Mars. And if ice exists beneath the surface, it means that astronauts or colonizers could have an endless source of water instead of relying on deliveries from Earth.
5. In the past, before it was confirmed that Mars had indeed had water in the past, scientists overlooked similar relief features. Now that it has been confirmed, scientists began mapping the surface of locations of interest like Arcadia Planitia. Over the course of the study, they found ripples and furrows like the ones on Earth at places where ice flowed.
6. Scientists believe that the hidden ice sheet in Arcadia Planitia has long stopped flowing.
7. This, however, does not mean that it is located in extremely inaccessible depths. On the contrary, it could be near the surface which would suggest that astronauts can extract ice water for consumption in the distant future.
8. Furthermore, Arcadia Planitia is located at a much easily accessible latitude than the glaciers at the polar regions. If manned missions were to land somewhere near the poles, it would expose astronauts to extreme conditions which is why we need better landing locations.
9. Typically, mid-latitude ice deposits are located deeper in the subsurface when compared to the polar regions. Yet, the one in Arcadia Planitia may prove to be the most accessible deposit to date.
10. For now, this study provides food for thought but there is too much that has to be explained before we get any definitive answers. Scientists can’t explain how ice moves in flat regions on Earth, let alone Mars.
Where will the next scientific mission to Mars be sent to? Manned missions are far from becoming a reality yet but regions like Arcadia Planitia could be what humans need to colonize the Red Planet.
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• Hibbard, S., Williams, N., Golombek, M., Osinski, G., & Godin, E. (2021, January 09). Evidence for Widespread glaciation in Arcadia Planitia, mars.
• Pappas, S. (2021, May 03). Possible new type of Glacier just discovered on Mars.
• Williams, M. (2021, May 01). Mid-Latitude glaciers on Mars could supply water to human explorers.
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