Russian scientists discovered a huge area of ​​free ice in one of the Martian chaos

(ORDO NEWS) — In area, it is more than twice the size of Lake Ladoga, although it lies close to the planet’s equator. The accumulation of a valuable resource in this relatively warm zone may be useful for future Martian bases and colonists.

As part of the ExoMars mission, the European Mars orbiter Trace Gas Orbiter observes the planet’s surface using various instruments. One of them is the Russian FREND neutron detector, the twin brother of the Russian HEND detector on board the Curiosity rover.

This device detects changes in the energy of cosmic ray neutrons after they are partially reflected from the surface of Mars. If neutrons are reflected from areas where there are many hydrogen atoms, the energy spectrum of the neutrons changes, which the instrument notices.

The presence of hydrogen itself can mean different things. As Igor Mitrofanov of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences notes in a commentary for, water on Mars can be contained in wet (and then frozen) sand, in hydrated minerals, and in the form of free ice. The latter form is the most valuable: it is the easiest water to extract. According to Mitrofanov, “you split it off and melt it, this is free water in the form of frozen ice, as in Yakutia.”

By the content of hydrogen atoms in the soil, these three cases can be distinguished from each other. Wet sand contains no more than a few percent of water by weight, hydrated minerals – about 15 percent. However, according to a paper published in the journal Icarus , at one point on Mars, the water content by mass is 40.5 percent. This is only compatible with the presence of a large amount of free ice.

It should be noted that FREND is able to reliably estimate the amount of water only in the upper meter of the Martian surface. In other words, the free ice at the point detected by the Russian instrument is either directly on the surface, under a thin layer of dust, or lies very shallow under it.

Russian scientists discovered a huge area of ​​free ice in one of the Martian chaos 2

The total volume of water ice found is unclear, since the depth to which it goes is not obvious. But the area of ​​the region itself is 41 thousand square kilometers, which is approximately equal to the Moscow region.

Particularly interesting is where the find was made. The zone is called Chaos Kandor. In the planetary science of the solar system, “chaos” is called an area with a chaotic relief, randomly combining ridges, cracks, plateaus and other structures. On the surface of Chaos Kandor lie some large blocks of irregular shape, apparently formed during the destruction of something.

Russian scientists discovered a huge area of ​​free ice in one of the Martian chaos 3

The chaos of Kandor traverses the Mariner Valley, the largest canyon system in the solar system, stretching for thousands of kilometers. The point where the ice was found lies close to the equator – in the most promising area for building a base or colony on the Red Planet.

There are higher temperatures and pressures, which makes daily activities easier. However, it was previously believed that water ice on Mars is located mainly near the poles, and near the equator it is too hot for it. The new discovery shows that, in fact, the equatorial zone of the planet is not so far from large deposits of water ice.


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