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Mars Express Unveils Enormous Equatorial Ice Reservoir

Revealing Mars Express Discovery: Enormous Subsurface Ice Reservoir Emerges Near Equator

In a groundbreaking revelation, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express orbiter has uncovered a substantial layer of water ice beneath Mars' equator.

Lead researcher Thomas Watters of the Smithsonian Institution reports findings showcasing an impressive volume of water ice, equivalent to an ocean covering the entire planet in a relatively shallow depth if melted.

Operating for two decades, the Mars Express mission identified the ice beneath the Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF), a wind-sculpted deposit near the planet's equator.

This discovery, the largest of its kind, highlights the presence of water ice extending 2.3 miles underground, covered by a crust of ash and dry dust hundreds of meters thick.

While prior identifications of deposits beneath the MFF were made, recent observations by the subsurface radar MARSIS provided crucial details.

The data suggests that the deposits are not mere dust, as initially thought, but exhibit low-density and fairly transparent characteristics consistent with water ice.

The newfound ice deposit raises intriguing questions about Mars' past and the formation of the MFF, likely occurring within the last 3 billion years.

The challenge lies in the depth of the ice, making access for potential future missions complicated despite its equatorial location.

This discovery challenges existing knowledge and prompts questions about the timeline of ice formation and climatic conditions on Mars over the years.

Colin Wilson, ESA Project Scientist for Mars Express and the Trace Gas Orbiter, emphasizes the need to explore the mysteries surrounding the MFF and the implications of Mars' changing axial tilt.

This revelation aligns with other recent discoveries of subsurface water-ice at various latitudes on Mars, hinting at a vastly different climate in the planet's distant past.

The study, now published in Geophysical Research Letters, adds complexity to our understanding of Mars' geological history and encourages further exploration to unravel the secrets hidden beneath its surface.


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