Ice and Dust at the Mars North Pole

| October 4, 2010

These rare Mars North Pole images, which is an additional set of Giant Ice Lake found on Mars, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on ESA Mars Express spacecraft, were released as one of a set for a European Space Agency (ESA) conference about water, ice, glaciers and volcanism on Mars. I like to quote an interesting comment by my fellow stumbleupon friend, Jeffrey (JSDavis82), “Where there’s ice, there’s water. Where there’s water, there’s life“. I think it is about a time we will find a living on the Martian planet.

This photo shows the martian north polar ice cap with layers of water ice and dust for the first time in perspective view. Here we see cliffs that are almost two kilometres high, and the dark material in the caldera-like structures and dune fields could be volcanic ash. Mars Express also saw fields of volcanic cones, some up to 600 metres high. They appear to indicate very recent volcanic activity. The question remains, is it ongoing activity?

Echus Chasma is the source region of the Kasei Valles channel. This perspective image was taken by Mars Express during orbit 97. It shows that liquid water was present on the surface of Mars thousands of millions of years ago. Gigantic waterfalls poured over the 4000-metre high cliffs, and fed a lake in the valley. Later, when the planet became cooler, the lakes froze and glaciers formed, carving the giant Kasei Valles.

The image above is Kasei Valles, one of the largest outflow channels on Mars, and contains a lot of evidence for glacial and fluvial activity over much of the planet’s history. Kasei Valles has been imaged before by the HRSC during orbit 61 from an altitude of 272 kilometres. These images are located about 29° North and 300° East.

The scour marks in the valley, shown in the image on the left, are most likely due to glacial erosion than by water erosion. This is contrary to what was previously thought. The glacier that caused this valley was fed by water from the Echus Chasma region, which was driven out from underneath the surface by volcanic activity. Water was released by heating from volcanic activity in the channel floor as relatively recently as 20 million years ago.


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Category: Headline, Space Exploration

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  1. Danny says:

    You need liquid water for life to evolve. Ice isn’t good enough.