Geologists reveal the mystery of the glaciers of Mars | Digital Trends Spanish
While Earth has probably had six glacial periods in about 4.5 billion years, Mars could have experienced up to 20 ice ages in a period of just 300 to 800 million years, as detailed in a study carried out by planetary geologist Joe Levy of Colgate University in New York.
Beyond the value of the find for the geological history of Mars, Levy argues that the discovery has crucial implications for future exploration of the red planet’s surface.
As he explains, his team’s observations will tell explorers that they will presumably drill into glaciers for fresh water if potentially dangerous rock formations lie beneath these sites.
“Prospective Mars explorers, who need to depend on the extraction of freshwater from glaciers to survive, will need to know that there may be bands of rocks within them that will make drilling dangerous,” he says.
For the finding, Levy and a team of 10 students from Colgate University analyzed high-resolution images obtained by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite for two summers.
The images, with a resolution of 25 centimeters per pixel, made it possible to analyze the rocks surrounding 45 glaciers on Mars.
Observation shows that the rocks have a random distribution. As he explains, its distribution suggests that Mars has had multiple glacial periods as a result of changes in the inclination of the planet’s axis – a phenomenon known as obliquity – and that it is far from the formation of glaciers on Earth.
“All the rocks and sand transported on that ice have remained on the surface; it’s like putting ice in a cooler under all those sediments, “he concludes.
Levy’s research will also allow scientists to gain insight into any signs of life throughout the history of Mars.
“If there are biomarkers in the air, they will also be trapped in the ice.”