Friday, September 25, 2009

Ice to see you - and make mine a long tall cool one.

University of Arizona researchers have made some startling new observations on Mars, having watched a patch of ice appear and disappear on the surface. That may not sound terribly exciting, but some significant deductions have arisen from the observation of the ice, which remarkably enough, was not only on the surface, but far from the North Pole. The ice looks to have been exposed by the impact of a meteorite, which gave the researchers the opportunity to watch how it behaved on the surface, and here comes the really exciting bit. By running some mathematical models, it was possible to make an estimate of the amount of ice likely to be mixed in with the soil, and with that knowledge it became possible to figure out the purity of the water based on how fast it dissipated; a whopping 99%! And that ice may just be a couple of meters below the surface, with the layer itself weighing in at a meter thick! This has got to be a big boost for the prospects of a sustainable human presence on Mars and for the possibility that life may yet cling to the planet. There's a very good and detailed article on the discovery to be found on the Cosmic Log page at MSNBC.