Thanks to ESA’s Mars Express, we now know that Mars has vast fields of perennial water ice, stretching out from the south pole of the Red Planet.
OMEGA view of Martian south pole
HRSC partial view of Martian south pole where OMEGA found water ice
Astronomers have known for years that Mars possessed polar ice caps, but early attempts at chemical analysis suggested only that the northern cap could be composed of water ice, and the southern cap was thought to be carbon dioxide ice.
Recent space missions then suggested that the southern ice cap, existing all year round, could be a mixture of water and carbon dioxide. But only with Mars Express have scientists been able to confirm directly for the first time that water ice is present at the south pole too.
Mars Express made observations with its OMEGA instrument to measure the amounts of sunlight and heat reflected from the Martian polar region. When planetary scientists analysed the data, it clearly showed that, as well as carbon dioxide ice, water ice was present too.
Roberto Lo Verde | ESA
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