Researchers from the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute have discovered layered deposits of light sulfate salts on the surface of Mars. Their structure has cracks and moraine layers, which indicates that there was a relatively recent glacier there.
As Space.com informs, scientists have come to this conclusion by studying the data obtained from the High-Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRise) camera installed on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) orbital device.
The newly discovered object is located near the equator of Mars. According to scientists, it is 6 km long, 4 km wide and 1.7 km thick. The researchers emphasize that it is not ice yet, but salt deposits that have the morphological features of a glacier. They assume that salt deposits formed on the surface of a glacier that once existed there, which repeated the shape of the glacier.
If the researchers' guesses are correct, it is possible that ice appeared on the surface of Mars later than previously thought, and this will have implications for both the general understanding of whether this planet is habitable and for future missions.
There has been volcanic activity in that region, and chemical reactions with the release of sulfates are thought to have occurred at the interface between the volcanic material and the glaciers. By continuously accumulating, these materials formed a hard layer; further erosion must have exposed them, and the exposed moraine cracks clearly indicate that there was once a water glacier there.
In the past, scientists have been able to detect signs of the remains of glaciers in the equatorial region of Mars, but these objects, according to scientists, belong to earlier periods, while the remains of equally "young" glaciers were observed only at higher latitudes.
It is possible that there are still reserves of water ice under the sulfate layers, and can be verified during future missions.
And if these assumptions are confirmed, this ice will become an object of study for researchers on this planet, whose conditions in its equatorial region are less unfavorable for both man and equipment.