Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The (Frozen) Red Planet

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Despite the fact that Mars has an abundance of water upon its poles, many scientists were hoping that underground oceans existed beneath its surface.

Unfortunately it seems as if recent scans of the Martian north pole indicate that if Mars does contain underground oceans, they may a much deeper than what we previously expected.

(Space.com) An international team of scientists used the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to probe the north pole of the red planet with radar. The ice cap there goes about 1.2 miles deep (2 km) and is roughly the size of Pakistan at 310,000 square miles large (800,000 square km). [...]

Unexpectedly, the radar scans also revealed the massive weight of the ice cap does not deform any underlying sediment. This implies the crust beneath the cap is strong — more than 180 miles thick (300 km).

To have such a thick crust, "Mars might be colder than we thought," Phillips told SPACE.com. As a result, any liquid water that might be underground has to be buried even deeper than once speculated. "If one thought that liquid water was 5 kilometers deep (3 miles), it's now at least 30 percent deeper than that," he said.

While the planet's colder side may make it harder to terraform the crimson world, it may convince the first colonists to establish outposts near the north and south Martian poles (instead of searching for "liquid water wells").

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

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~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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