NAU Scientists Map Hidden Water Ice On Mars

Dec 18, 2019

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.

Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS

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.