Traces of a large water deposit found on Mars – DW – 01/18/2024

Mars Express probe The European Space Agency (ESA) has discovered that extensive layers of several kilometers existing beneath the soil of Mars’ equator are deeper than previously thought and suggest the presence of ice to the extent that it would be the largest amount of water found in this part of the planet.

The Mars Express mission has been exploring the Red Planet for twenty years with the participation of NASA. Just over fifteen years ago, while studying the Medusa Fossa Formation (MFF), he discovered huge deposits up to 2.5 km deep, but was unable to specify what they were.

“We reexamined the MFF using more recent data from the Mars Express MARSIS radar and found that the deposits are even thicker than we thought: up to 3.7 km,” details Thomas Watters from the Smithsonian Institution (USA). , lead author of both the new study and the original 2007 study.

Huge deposits of ice

And the signals detected by MARSIS are “very similar” to those of Mars’ polar ice caps, “which we know are very ice-rich,” he notes.

In fact, these deposits are so large that if they were to melt, the buried ice would cover the entire planet with a layer of water 1.5 to 2.7 meters deep, enough to fill Earth’s Red Sea.

The existence of this large mass of ice will help understand how the planet’s climate evolved, but above all, it will be necessary to supply future manned missions, the authors emphasize.

MMF, the largest source of Martian dust

The MFF is characterized by several wind-shaped features hundreds of kilometers in diameter and several kilometers high that lie at the boundary between the high and low lands of Mars and are possibly the largest source of dust on Mars.

Early observations from Mars Express showed that the MFF was relatively transparent to radar and low in density – typical characteristics of icy deposits – but at the time it could not be ruled out that they were giant accumulations of dust, volcanic ash or entrained sediment. wind.

New analysis suggests it contains layers of dust and ice, covered by a thick layer of protective dust several hundred meters thick.

EL (efe, ESA)

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