The possibility of life on the other planets in the Solar System has always been deliberated by astronomers and scientists in an effort to search for water on these entities. However, this might not be a theory anymore. Scientists have discovered a massive reservoir of frozen water beneath the northern polar ice cap on Mars using a ground-penetrating radar.
Mars’ northern cavi unit, resting about a couple of kilometres below the Martian North pole, was found having multiple layers of ice mixed in with sand was considered to have formed over the course of hundreds of supereons. The region is packed with more water ice that sand which could be the third-largest water reservoir on the Red Planet. An instrument called Shallow Radar or SHARAD made these groundbreaking observations possible. The device is mounted on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
As per the observations, there are alternate layers of horizontal slabs of ice and sand, sandwiched by each other, out of which 61-88 percent is composed of ice by volume. The frequency and volume of these ice layers increase with the proximity to the North Pole. The amount of ice present in the cavi unit in total is enough to submerge the entire planet if melted and brought to the surface!
The SHARAD data suggests that the cavi unit apparently accounts for a historical record of Martian climate. Like Earth, Mars has also had multiple ice ages. As the sand enclosed the shrunken ice during the warm periods shielding them from the Sun, the buried ice cap structures arose, whose layers resemble the rings of a tree, signifying the evolution of the polar ice caps on Mars. This kept the planet from losing ice to the atmosphere by evaporation.
Before the study came to light, scientists believed that Mars had lost its ancient ice caps. The results of the SHARAD data were significant because they provide clear evidence of the climate cycles of the past.
SHARAD has been previously used to confirm the presence of glaciers in the mid-latitudes of Mars. It was found that these glaciers were almost completely made up of water ice but is inaccessible, given the surface irregularities.
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