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Science and Innovations

NAU Scientists Map Hidden Water Ice On Mars


Scientists at Northern Arizona University mapped frozen water hidden just below the surface of Mars, with the goal of finding the best spots for future astronauts to visit. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Buried water ice influences the temperature of a planet’s surface. The team used heat-sensing instruments on two orbiting spacecraft to map fluctuations in temperature during different seasons on Mars. They crunched the data in Northern Arizona University’s supercomputer to make the map.

NAU scientist Jennifer Buz is one of the authors. She says, "We knew that there was water ice on the poles. But it’s super hard to send things to the poles… And so for future missions to Mars you need to target areas that aren’t so polar. Our study shows there is accessible water ice in areas that we could presumably send a long term mission."

In some areas the ice is just an inch or so beneath the surface. A supply of local water will be necessary to future astronauts, so the team identified a mid-latitude region they say would be ideal to visit.

The study was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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