Gigantic ice slab found on Mars

Gigantic Ice Slab Found On Mars

By THE WEATHER CHANNEL

Scientists have long known that there are large quantities of ice underneath the surface of Mars, but recent research reveals that the subterranean ice field may cover as much area as California and Texas combined.

Ali Bramson, a graduate student at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, was intrigued by a "crazy-looking crater" in the Arcadia Planitia region of Mars' northern lowlands.

"Craters should be bowl shaped, but this one had terraces in the wall," Bramson said in a release from the LPL. "When the crater is forming, the shock wave from an object hitting a planet's surface propagates differently depending on what substrates are beneath the area of impact. If you have a weaker material in one layer, the shock wave can push out that material more easily, and the result is terracing at the interface between the weaker and stronger materials."

See more images from the red planet:

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Mars
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Gigantic ice slab found on Mars
Photo: ESA

The image shows part of the Arabia Terra region, which is scattered with craters of varying sizes and ages. The craters in this image, caused by impacts in Mars’ past, all show different degrees of erosion. Some still have defined outer rims and clear features within them, while others are much smoother and featureless, almost seeming to run into one another or merge with their surroundings. 

This color image was taken by Mars Express’s High Resolution Stereo Camera on 19 November 2014, during orbit 13728. The image resolution is about 20 m per pixel.

(Photo by ESA/DLR/FU Berlin)

MOUNT SHARP, MARS - APRIL 10, 2015: In this handout provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS A sweeping panorama combining 33 telephoto images into one Martian vista presents details of several types of terrain visible on Mount Sharp from a location along the route of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. The component images were taken by the rover's Mast Camera on April 10, 2015. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity drilled into this rock target, "Cumberland," during the 279th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (May 19, 2013) and collected a powdered sample of material from the rock's interior. Analysis of the Cumberland sample using laboratory instruments inside Curiosity will check results from "John Klein," the first rock on Mars from which a sample was ever collected and analyzed. The two rocks have similar appearance and lie about nine feet (2.75 meters) apart. (NASA)
Mars true-color globe showing Terra Meridiani. (Photo by NASA/Greg Shirah)
GALE CRATER, MARS - APRIL 10, 2015: In this handout provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission's 956th Martian day, or sol April 15, 2015, from the rover's location in Gale Crater, Mars. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ via Getty Images)
Twelve orbits a day provide the Mars Global Surveyor MOC wide angle cameras a global 'snapshot' of weather patterns across the planet. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - SEPTEMBER 2: In this handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, and captured by NASA's Curiosity rover, a rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface that is elsewhere blanketed by reddish-brown dust, showing evidence for an ancient, flowing stream, September 2, 2012. The fractured Link outcrop has blocks of exposed, clean surfaces. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size are in a matrix of white material. Many gravel-sized rocks have eroded out of the outcrop onto the surface, particularly in the left portion of the frame. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Water transport is the only process capable of producing the rounded shape of clasts of this size. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - AUGUST 8: In this handout image provided by NASA and released on August 8, 2012, the four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA's Curiosity rover are spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. The relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - AUGUST 5: In this handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, This color thumbnail image was obtained by NASA's Curiosity rover during its descent to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT and transmitted to Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The image from Curiosity's Mars Descent Imager illustrates the roughly circular swirls of dust kicked up from the Martian surface by the rocket motor exhaust. At this point, Curiosity is about 70 feet (20 meters) above the surface. This dust cloud was generated when the Curiosity rover was being lowered to the surface while the Sky Crane hovered above. This is the first image of the direct effects of rocket motor plumes on Mars and illustrates the mobility of powder-like dust on the Martian surface. It is among the first color images Curiosity sent back from Mars. The original image from MARDI has been geometrically corrected to look flat. The MSL Rover named Curiosity is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbe. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)
WINDJANA, MARS - APRIL/MAY 2015: In this handout composite provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called 'Windjana.' The camera is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), which previously recorded portraits of Curiosity at two other important sites during the mission. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)
A portion of the west rim of Endeavour crater sweeps southward in this false color view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
This image illustrates possible ways methane might be added to Mars' atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has detected fluctuations in methane concentration in the atmosphere, implying both types of activity occur on modern Mars. A longer caption discusses which are sources and which are sinks.(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan)
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According to Shane Byrne, an associate professor at the LPL, terraced craters of this size are quite rare elsewhere on Mars but seem to abound in this region, leading the LPL team to investigate just why that might be.

READ MORE: 'Strange' Things Seen in Images from Mars

The team used data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to create three-dimensional models of the area's craters, which allowed them to measure the depth of their terraces. They then beamed radar pulses to the planet, allowing them to measure the time it took for the radar signals to penetrate the surface's buried layers and bounce back.

Data from the combined experiments revealed that the buried layers are ice, and lots of it, measuring 130 feet thick in places.

READ MORE: NASA's Yearlong Mars Isolation Experiment Is Underway in Hawaii

"Knowing where the ice is and how thick it is can tell you about Mars' past climates," Byrne said. "The fact that the ice is so thick and widespread leads us to think it came into place during one of Mars' past climates when it snowed a bunch, ice accumulated, was buried, and then preserved. But it shouldn't be stable today ... the ice should've sublimated away into the dry Martian atmosphere by now. So, that's what we need to investigate."

See more from Mars in these sunset photos:

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Sunset on Mars, Mars rover, Curiosity, NASA
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Gigantic ice slab found on Mars
(Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Rover Takes Self Portrait

(Photo: NASA/Flickr)

Curiosity Parachute Landing Spotted by NASA Orbiter [detail]

(Photo via NASA/Flickr)

IN SPACE - SEPTEMBER 2: In this handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, and captured by NASA's Curiosity rover, a rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface that is elsewhere blanketed by reddish-brown dust, showing evidence for an ancient, flowing stream, September 2, 2012. The fractured Link outcrop has blocks of exposed, clean surfaces. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size are in a matrix of white material. Many gravel-sized rocks have eroded out of the outcrop onto the surface, particularly in the left portion of the frame. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Water transport is the only process capable of producing the rounded shape of clasts of this size. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - SEPTEMBER 14: This handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, and captured by NASA's Curiosity rover, shows evidence for an ancient, flowing stream at the rock outcrop pictured here September 14, 2012, and a few other sites on Mars, which the science team has named 'Hottah' after Hottah Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories. This geological feature on Mars is exposed bedrock made up of smaller fragments cemented together, or what geologists call a sedimentary conglomerate. Scientists theorize that the bedrock was disrupted in the past, giving it the titled angle, most likely via impacts from meteorites. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)
MARS - SEPTEMBER 19: In this handout from NASA/JPL-Caltech, a rock that is approximately 10 inches (25 centimeters) tall and 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide sits in front of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity September 19, 2012 on Mars. According to NASA, the rover team chose the rock, that has been named Jake Matijevic, as the first taget to be examined by Curiosity's contact instruments. Jake Matijevic was a surface operations systems chief engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory Project and the Curiosity rover. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - FEBRUARY 3: In this handout image provided by NASA, a self-portrait of the Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on February 3, 2013 on the planet Mars. Curiosity landed on the planet on August 5, 2012. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)
These are the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's 'head' or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground. The topography of the rim is very mountainous due to erosion. The ground seen in the middle shows low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover's descent stage thrusters. (NASA/MCT via Getty Images)
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