Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Buried craters and underground ice - Mars Express uncovers depths of Mars

01.12.2005


For the first time in the history of planetary exploration, the MARSIS radar on board ESA’s Mars Express has provided direct information about the deep subsurface of Mars.



First data include buried impact craters, probing of layered deposits at the north pole and hints of the presence of deep underground water-ice. The subsurface of Mars has been so far unexplored territory. Only glimpses of the Martian depths could be deduced through analysis of impact crater and valley walls, and by drawing cross-sections of the crust deduced from geological mapping of the surface.

With measurements taken only for a few weeks during night-time observations last summer, MARSIS - the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding - is already changing our perception of the Red Planet, adding to our knowledge the missing ’third’ dimension: the Martian interior.


First results reveal an almost circular structure, about 250 km in diameter, shallowly buried under the surface of the northern lowlands of the Chryse Planitia region in the mid-latitudes on Mars. The scientists have interpreted it as a buried basin of impact origin, possibly containing a thick layer of water-ice-rich material.

To draw this first exciting picture of the subsurface, the MARSIS team studied the echoes of the radio waves emitted by the radar, which passed through the surface and then bounced back in the distinctive way that told the ’story’ about the layers penetrated.

These echo structures form a distinctive collection that include parabolic arcs and an additional planar reflecting feature parallel to the ground, 160 km long. The parabolic arcs correspond to ring structures that could be interpreted as the rims of one or more buried impact basins. Other echoes show what may be rim-wall ’slump blocks’ or ’peak-ring’ features.

The planar reflection is consistent with a flat interface that separates the floor of the basin, situated at a depth of about 1.5 to 2.5 km, from a layer of overlying different material. In their analysis of this reflection, scientists do not exclude the intriguing possibility of a low-density, water-ice-rich material at least partially filling the basin.

"The detection of a large buried impact basin suggests that MARSIS data can be used to unveil a population of hidden impact craters in the northern lowlands and elsewhere on the planet," says Jeffrey Plaut, Co-Principal Investigator on MARSIS. "This may force us to reconsider our chronology of the formation and evolution of the surface."

MARSIS also probed the layered deposits that surround the north pole of Mars, in an area between 10º and 40º East longitude. The interior layers and the base of these deposits are poorly exposed. Prior interpretations could only be based on imaging, topographic measurements and other surface techniques.

Two strong and distinct echoes coming from the area correspond to a surface reflection and subsurface interface between two different materials. By analysis of the two echoes, the scientists were able to draw the likely scenario of a nearly pure, cold water-ice layer thicker than 1 km, overlying a deeper layer of basaltic regolith. This conclusion appears to rule out the hypothesis of a melt zone at the base of the northern layered deposits.

To date, the MARSIS team has not observed any convincing evidence for liquid water in the subsurface, but the search has only just begun. "MARSIS is already demonstrating the capability to detect structures and layers in the subsurface of Mars which are not detectable by other sensors, past or present," says Giovanni Picardi, MARSIS Principal Investigator.

"MARSIS holds exciting promise to address, and possibly solve, a number of open questions of major geological significance," he concluded.

Franco Bonacina | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Results_from_Mars_Express_and_Huygens/SEM7ZTULWFE_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold
26.06.2017 | Toyohashi University of Technology

nachricht A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>