Mars’ ice is darker than Earth’s and can be melted

A study published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets revealed that the ice found on Mars is not only porous, but also has an equal or greater melting potential than Earth’s ice.

The research was conducted jointly between the universities of Arizona and Washington, combining data obtained by the Phoenix landing module and probe (which surveyed water molecules at the north pole of the red planet until 2008) and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO ) with a new analysis model created by the study experts.

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Photo shows ice on Mars' soil, which scholars claim has the potential to melt more than Earth's
The ice on Mars (blue square) was formed by particles of dust and snow, which increased its melting potential, experts say. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University

Basically, this new model works on evaluating the clarity and brightness of the ice on Mars. According to physics, the brighter and brighter an ice sheet, the more sunlight it will reflect, keeping it cool. This is why, for example, the extreme regions of the Earth’s polar zones have ice much more refined and resistant than other areas (although global warming puts this to the test every day).

The opposite is also true: the “darker” the ice, the more light it absorbs, raising its internal temperature and increasing its melting potential. And according to the new study, the ice on Mars is pretty dark.

“There is a chance that, under the right conditions, this ‘dusty’, dark ice could melt and drop a few inches,” said Aditya Khuller of the University of Arizona. “Further, any liquid under the surface that came from this melt will be protected from evaporation by a layer of ice on top of it.”

According to experts, the ice collected by the Phoenix module formed over the last million years or so, created from deposits of snow and dust. In other regions of Mars, this same effect has already been observed with different time variations.

“Mars is believed to have gone through several ‘ice ages’ throughout its history, and it seems to us that the ice exposed by the planet’s mid-latitudes is a holdover from very ancient eras,” said Khuller.

“Now,” she continued, “we are going to work on developing more improved computer simulations of the Mars ice to study how it has evolved over time, and whether it can also melt to form liquid water. The results of this study will be essential for our work, as the knowledge of the ice’s brightness directly influences how warm it can be”.

This same discrepancy between light ice and dark ice, for example, is melting parts of Greenland.

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