Scientists Surprised by Abundance of Water Ice on Mars

Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, showing its white icy poles of both carbon dioxide frost and some water ice in contrast with the rusty red, desert surface over the rest of the planet. Photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, showing its white icy poles of both carbon dioxide frost and some water ice in contrast with the rusty red, desert surface over the rest of the planet. Photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Layered, dusty Martian surface in far west Candor Chasma of the Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL/MalinSpaceScienceSystems.
Layered, dusty Martian surface in far west Candor Chasma of the Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL/MalinSpaceScienceSystems.

June 1, 2002  Pasadena, California - Since NASA's 1976 Viking missions, Mars has been thought by most people to be dry, dusty and dead, marked with ancient river channels and gullies that meant water had been there once upon a time. For several decades, traces of atmospheric water and some water ice along with frozen carbon dioxide at the poles had been known. But where had all the water gone that had once flowed through the rivers and canyons? Apparently, the oxidized, rusty surface has been deceiving. Less than a meter below the red rocks and dust in very cold regions, scientists have found a signal for the element hydrogen that is so strong it's assumed to be frozen H2O (water), according to this week's journal Science.

 

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