Washington: In a new research, scientists have found evidence on the Martian terrain that points towards a recent ice age on the Red Planet.
The research, by Samuel C Schon and James W Head from the Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, was carried out to explain the distribution of ice in the near subsurface at middle to high latitudes on Mars.
Two hypotheses emerged out of the research.
While one theory suggested diffusion of water vapor into porous regolith, the other indicated atmospheric deposition of ice, snow, and dust during recent ice ages.
To determine which of these hypotheses is correct, Schon and his team used data from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) to examine the structure of exposed subsurface mid-latitude Martian terrain.
The researchers observed that the terrain is characterized by layered deposits multiple meters thick that stretch over many hundreds of meters.
They suggest that climate variations are most likely the source of this stratification.
The layers probably formed as dust, ice, and snow were deposited on the ground during recent ice ages, which occurred during periods when the tilt of Mars’s axis of rotation was higher than usual.
Vapor diffusion would be unlikely to result in the observed layered structure, according to the researchers.
They said that the observations also suggest that significant subsurface ice may remain in the 30 - 50 degrees mid-latitude regions.
First Published: Friday, August 28, 2009, 17:49