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The scarps directly expose bright glimpses into vast underground ice previously detected with spectrometers on NASA's Mars Odyssey (MRO) orbiter, with ground-penetrating radar instruments on MRO and on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, and with observations of fresh impact craters that uncover subsurface ice.
These pits may indicate locations where subsurface ice has melted or sublimated from below, causing the ground to collapse.
It might be from subsurface ice, though that shouldn't be buried at such shallow depths near the equator (which is generally where these streaks appear).
The identification of water ice peaks in the second experiment (Figure 3) helps detecting subsurface ice on Mars as in the polar or mid-latitude regions for example (Smith et al.
Shifting pockets of subsurface ice could put more spring into the overlying terrain, eroding the oldest craters.
Last month as Dawn neared Ceres, it relayed images of startlingly bright spots on the surface, which could be patches of subsurface ice exposed after an asteroid or comet impact.
Researchers at the American Geophysical Union meeting Tuesday in San Francisco discussed a range of current Martian activity, from fresh craters offering glimpses of subsurface ice to multi-year patterns in the occurrence of large, regional dust storms.
The craters are found primarily at higher latitudes, a location that correlates with thick, fine-grained sedimentary deposits rich with subsurface ice.
They say it is a thick layer of subsurface ice, amounting to several thousand tonnes of water.
When future astronauts need water on the Moon or Mars, they'll need to go only as far as an outpost where subsurface ice has been pumped out with microwave beams.
Mars is a cold, dry place, although the arctic region under study is believed to hold vast quantities of subsurface ice.
Their heat melted the subsurface ice and liberated huge amounts of water in a very short time.