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CLARA MOSCHINI

The water ice of Mars observed by MRO probe

Eight frozen eroded areas identified by scientists

Once there was water on the Red Planet. By now the scientists are certain of the "wet" past of Mars, and new data coming from the Martian probes continue to confirm the presence of structures that have been carved by ancient watercourses.

The erosion of the ground has brought out over time ice water deposits present under the surface starting from one or two meters of depth, up to 100 meters. Ice is a fundamental objective for modern science and geomorphology because it is possible to return the climate changes that have hit the planet, and how it has changed and will change its habitability, and could be a potential resource for future human exploration. While it is known that traces of ice are present in some Martian sites, many questions remain about their stratification, thickness and extension.

In a new article published on "Science", a team of scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science analyzed data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) probe, identifying the presence of ice under the surface of eight areas distributed around an eroded zone.

Fractures and steeper angles indicate that ice is cohesive and solid. Furthermore, color changes suggest that this contains separate layers that could be used to understand changes in the Martian climate over time -the ice layers themselves probably formed from the accumulated snow. Since there are only a few craters on the surface of the eight sites analyzed by the team, the authors hypothesize that ice has formed relatively recently.

The images taken over the course of three years reveal huge blocks of frozen rock that in the past, during erosion, have fallen, leading researchers to estimate that the ice has retreated by a few millimeters per year, Summer after Summer.

The MRO information, launched by Cape Canaveral on 12 August 2005, has also been considered in the perspective of human missions on the planet; one of the main instruments on board the probe, Sharad (SHAllow RADar) has been developed in Italy and supplied to NASA, the American space agency, from the Italian Space Agency (ASI) as Facility Instrument.

The site of ASI reported it yesterday, signed by Ilaria Marciano.

Pec - 1209620
World Aeronautical Press Agency
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