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Mars Space Science

Enormous Amount of Frozen Water Found on Mars 442

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the or-at-least-way-more-than-before dept.
schweini writes "Space.com is reporting that the Mars Express probe's MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) experiment has detected and measured an enormous amount of water ice near Mars' south pole, which would be sufficient to submerge the whole planet's surface underneath approximately 10m of water on average."
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Enormous Amount of Frozen Water Found on Mars

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  • Let's add some heat! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PapayaSF (721268) on Friday March 16, 2007 @12:04AM (#18371509) Journal
    This sounds like the idea of terraforming Mars just got a lot closer to doable. Wouldn't evaporating or boiling some of the water via nuclear reactors or orbiting mirrors increase the humidity and heat retention of the atmosphere, and eventually create a climate in which many earth organisms could thrive?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) *
      In about 400 years, sure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Except that water molecules are a bit too light and likely to escape Mars' gravity well (or be kicked out of it). Nothing like having an atmosphere just to lose it into space.

      The problem with Mars is that it's a little too small and has no magnetic field to keep the solar wind away. Oh well, not unfixable, but we'll need a little more technology to move it further from the Sun (perhaps in orbit around Jupiter?)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Yes. To start, let's de-orbit one of Mars' moons, and then bombard the planet with sufficient water asteroids (a chunk of water ice totalling a few million cublic kilometres would probably do, but you'd need a lot of smaller chunks) to both significantly increase the water on the surface as well as increasing the gravity. We can continue bombarding the planet with relatively large asteroids to work on the surface gravity while we move orbital mirrors into position and begin to eat the place up.

        As you say, n
        • by neonleonb (723406) on Friday March 16, 2007 @03:54AM (#18372463) Homepage
          You talk about "significantly ... increasing the gravity." Are you really suggesting that we move planet-sized chunks of mass around the solar system? In order to increase the gravity of Mars by 10%, we'd have to move something on the order of the size of the moon. Do you have any idea how much energy that would require? It's completely infeasible for the foreseeable future; if you can manipulate the solar system on that level, you might as well just build a Dyson sphere or ringworld and have done with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brett Buck (811747)
      Without addressing the fundamental flaws with the idea of terraforming in any form, no.

      The conditions that caused the loss of the original atmosphere are still present, and even presuming you could start melting the water somehow, and then put some sort of hardy organisms on there to make an Earth-like atmosphere, it would only last until you ran out of water, then you would be back in the same boat, except now all the water would be gone.

              Brett
      • The conditions that caused the loss of the original atmosphere are still present, and even presuming you could start melting the water somehow, and then put some sort of hardy organisms on there to make an Earth-like atmosphere, it would only last until you ran out of water, then you would be back in the same boat, except now all the water would be gone.


        You do realize that'd likely be in the order of several thousand years.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tftp (111690)
          You do realize that'd likely be in the order of several thousand years.

          I do not realize that, and will not realize that until someone proves it and the proof survives the reviews.

    • This sounds like the idea of terraforming Mars just got a lot closer to doable.

      How 'bout we start small, huh? Like... spacecraft that don't blow up.
    • by Dunbal (464142) on Friday March 16, 2007 @02:48AM (#18372231)
      Wouldn't evaporating or boiling some of the water via nuclear reactors

            Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure...

            Seriously do you have any idea of the amount of energy involved to do what you propose? Here's a hint: multiply 1370 W/m^2 minus 590 W/m2 [72.14.209.104] by the cross sectional area of mars (around 3.6 x 10^13 m^2) to give you 2.7 x 10^16 Watts.

            That's pretty much around the amount of energy you need to produce with your nuclear reactors to keep mars at around earthlike temperatures... To put this in perspective, a 1 Megaton nuclear device has a yield of around 4 x 10^15 Joules. You would need to be exploding the equivalent of 6 of these devices on the planet EVERY SECOND to generate enough energy. Then there's the problem of distributing the heat evenly...
      • by julesh (229690) on Friday March 16, 2007 @05:49AM (#18372853)
        Here's a hint: multiply 1370 W/m^2 minus 590 W/m2 by the cross sectional area of mars (around 3.6 x 10^13 m^2) to give you 2.7 x 10^16 Watts.

        From the source you cite:
        The average solar intensity at the orbit of Mars is 590 W/m2, compared with 1370 W/m2 in Earth orbit

        The figures you're citing are orbital figures. Most of that energy is reflected off or absorbed by the atmosphere. Energy reaching the surface of the Earth is more like 200 W/m2, with an additional 70W/m2 absorbed by the atmosphere. I don't know about the Martian surface, I haven't found any sources, but with a thinner atmosphere, I dare say a higher proportion of that energy reaches it. I'd guess you're probably looking at making up a deficit of less than 100W/m2, not 600.
    • by BuR4N (512430)
      Sorry to crash the party but you have to fix Mars magnetosphere first....
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by lordofthechia (598872)

      Wouldn't evaporating or boiling some of the water via nuclear reactors or orbiting mirrors increase the humidity and heat retention of the atmosphere

      I can see it now... "The Simple Guide to Terraforming a Planet"

      1. Bring the whole planet to a slow boil. *
      2. Let planet sit until it reaches room temperature
      3. Colonize!

      As a side effect you would also be sterilizing the planet (at least of bacteria that can't survive boiling water, granted water would boil at a lower temp on Mars).

      * For a more delicious recipe, add noodles and flavor packet after Step 1.

      • by anaesthetica (596507) on Friday March 16, 2007 @02:32PM (#18379153) Homepage Journal

        Dear User:lordofthechia,

        As you are aware, Slashdot protocol strictly regulates the form and content of user posts so as to maintain a coherent and familiar format for our readers.

        Your post violates a treasured rule from our Manual of Style. All instructional lists (especially numbered lists) must follow a format in which the last two steps are as follows:

        • ?????
        • Profit!

        This message is a warning. You would have received a harsher first-time violator penalty if it were not for your mitigating footnote referencing the preparation ritual for our beloved food source, ramen noodle. Any future infractions will result in an automatic +100000 to your UID.

        HAND,

        Anae

  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Friday March 16, 2007 @12:08AM (#18371533) Journal
    It seems like the last time I heard of this topic the scientists were trying to find any evidence of water on Mars.
    Now, they've found a massive amount and the F article states:
    1. Discovered in the early 1970s, layered deposits of ice and dust cap the North and South Poles of Mars.
    2. Scientists have long known that Mars' north polar cap is a massive storehouse of water ice...

    So what gives? My vague memory says in the nineties they were still looking for any signs of water and now it's old news?

  • by Rie Beam (632299) on Friday March 16, 2007 @12:19AM (#18371579) Journal

    Mars is unlikely to sport beachfront property anytime soon, but the planet has enough water ice at its south pole to blanket the entire planet in more than 30 feet of water if everything thawed out.

    So how many Hummers are we talking about here?

  • Ever so slowly...?
  • by Rie Beam (632299) on Friday March 16, 2007 @12:22AM (#18371593) Journal

    A Martian water-world is unlikely in the near future


    Thank god. [wikipedia.org]

  • by isaac (2852) on Friday March 16, 2007 @12:29AM (#18371645)
    FTA:

    The scientists calculated that the water would form a 36-foot-deep ocean of sorts if spread over the Martian globe.

    Hang on, is it enough water to cover the surface of Mars to an average depth of 36 feet, is it forming an ocean in the lowest-lying areas of Mars (Hellas?) with an average depth of 36 feet? (Or even a maximum depth of 36 feet?)

    There's orders of magnitude between each of these. Does anyone have a better reference?

    -Isaac

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      estimated volume of ice found = surface area of Mars x 36 feet
    • by snowgirl (978879)
      Not to mention that enormous volcano bigger than Texas... I mean, wouldn't you have to cover that up too to declare it as "surrounding the entire surface"?
    • by MyHair (589485)
      I also found it an odd measure. I'd much rather see an image of where the lakes/oceans might be if all of it was melted, perhaps with depth maps.

      I assume they used the average radius of Mars and the water would cover 36 feet of a sphere with that radius.
  • From Slashdot:

    Space.com is reporting that the Mars Express probe's MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) experiment has detected and measured an enormous amount of water ice near Mars' south pole, which would be sufficient to submerge the whole planet's surface underneath approximately 10m of water on average.

    10m = ~32.8ft

    From the article:

    "The scientists calculated that the water would form a 36-foot-deep ocean of sorts if spread over the Martian globe."

    36ft = ~

  • Isn't there a lot of water in Uranus

    Sorry :D
  • Not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Friday March 16, 2007 @01:10AM (#18371839)
    "...an enormous amount of water ice...would be sufficient to submerge the whole planet's surface underneath approximately 10m of water on average.

    Did you know that if you took all of the sand from the Sahara Desert and spread it out that it would cover all of North Africa...?

    Compared to the Earth, as an example, the 10m stat actually says there is very little water. Think about it.

     
    • 10 meter depth over 100% of planet surface
    • 15 meter depth over 75% of planet surface
    • 20 meter depth over 50% of planet surface
    • 40 meter depth over 25% of planet surface
    • 80 meter depth over 12.5% of planet surface


    80 meters depth covering just a bit more than 10% of the entire planet. 2/3 ~ 3/4 of Earth is covered in water, with the average depth of all the major oceans sitting at 3800m. [hypertextbook.com]

    Three-thousand, eight-hundred meters here at home - compared to fifteen meters for Mars. Fifteen??!! Does that sound enormous to you? If it does, I've got an appendage I'd like to show you, in private, of course, you're not going to believe.
    • Re:Not (Score:4, Informative)

      by Chatsubo (807023) on Friday March 16, 2007 @03:21AM (#18372333)
      TFA states that there's that amount of water in one deposit.

      There's probably other deposits, with much, much more....

      "There's evidence that about 10 times or maybe even 100 times that much water has flowed across the surface of Mars to carve the various channels, the outflow valleys and other features we see in the images and topography data"

      They're just saying that, they've found where a bunch of that water IS, but they still have to find where the rest of it is. If it's there.
  • a couple bacteria could (accidentally) make it the whole way to mars on one of our probes? Is it possible we could inadvertently populate mars with our Earth-life? How funny would it be to "discover" life on mars when we actually put it there years before on a probe to one of the more life-friendly corners of mars... just a weird though i had while reading this
    • by djupedal (584558)
      "a couple bacteria could (accidentally) make it the whole way to mars on one of our probes?"

      From the bacterium's point of view, there would be nothing 'accidental' about moving from A to B, you know that, right?

      "Is it possible we could inadvertently populate mars with our Earth-life? How funny would it be to "discover" life on mars when we actually put it there years before"

      Last I heard, we were doing better at killing off anything Martian we may have 'discovered', so I'd say the odds of life from
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Dunbal (464142)
        Last I heard, we were doing better at killing off anything Martian we may have 'discovered'

              OMG! Already crack-pot environmentalists are trying to blame us for "destroying" mars??? Damn, I'm sorry. I killed those baby seals, but the martian baceria - NOT GUILTY! And I didn't pour the acid on Venus either!
    • by Mr0bvious (968303) on Friday March 16, 2007 @01:42AM (#18371959)
      According to this article http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm?programID=05 -P13-00024&segmentID=7 [loe.org] the chances are high... Here is an extract

      BURDICK: It is surprisingly difficult. I spent some quality time with a microbiologist at the Jet Propulsion Lab out in Pasadena, and this guy works in the spacecraft assembly facility where they build, well they built the Mars Rovers that are now out there on Mars. And this guy, his job is to kind of inspect what's left over and to see well, gosh, did any microbes survive the incredibly kind of harsh decontamination process that we've devised to get rid of them? And to his great surprise they have, and he's found at least one microbe that not only thrives in the spacecraft assembly facility, but seems to have actually evolved in it. It's a tough little spore, it eats aluminum. He found it growing on the surface of one of the Mars Rovers. It forms these spores and then the spores kind of group together to form a little, what he calls an igloo. It looks kind of like a macaroon under a microscope and when he cuts it open and exposes it to the light detection techniques that NASA's developed to look for life, he finds no sign of life and then when he puts this little igloo back together, the microbe comes back to life amazingly. And I asked him, "So you know you found this thing on the Mars Rover when it was being built. Do you think it's up there on Mars right now?" And he said, "oh yes, I'm quite certain, I'm almost certain that it is." So you know, I mean, it's just indicative of how life wants to spread. Either they're moving around inadvertently with us or they're moving around intentionally with us, but they are kind of reflections of our ambition, our desire to reshape the nature around us in a way that makes us more comfortable. You know, we can kind of demonize these things, but in a way they're really kind of impressive little critters. They're sort of doing what nature permitted them to do. And in a Darwinian sense, I mean, they're winners. I mean you've got to be, even if you don't like aliens, and there is quite a number of reasons not to, I think it's worthwhile sort of stopping and at least being impressed by their ability to thrive in a world that we think that we dominate. So far as we know, Earth is the only planet with life on it and the wind is blowing outward. We may well be the dandelion in the solar system.

      Interesting...
  • Now if we could just find the large underground mutant generators, we will be able to instantaneously terraform Mars. Of course we'd need Arnold Schwarzenegger [imdb.com] to spearhead this for us, but I think he's up to the task.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Friday March 16, 2007 @01:36AM (#18371933) Homepage
    I say that we terraform Earth first. If you've ever flown over Colorado, Nevada, or Utah, you quickly realize that Those Places Ain't Habitable.
  • by BlackSabbath (118110) on Friday March 16, 2007 @01:37AM (#18371939) Homepage
    Let's see. By all accounts we're producing too much CO2 on Earth, meanwhile our closest neighbour is just begging for some CO2 to trigger a bit of global warming and make the planet nice and cosy.

    OK. A bit simplistic, but you can't help wondering...
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Let's see. By all accounts we're producing too much CO2 on Earth, meanwhile our closest neighbour is just begging for some CO2 to trigger a bit of global warming and make the planet nice and cosy.

      Uhh, dude, sorry to rain on your parade but the martian atmosphere [wikipedia.org] is over 90% CO2! I doubt that having more CO2 there is going to do anything. What Mars really needs in order to be warmer is to have an orbit closer to the sun!

      Man you have to re-take basic nerding 101 fo
  • by rez_rat (1618) on Friday March 16, 2007 @01:47AM (#18371979)
    So THAT's what that giant white cap on the Martian north pole is!!! Doh!!
    There go all my "Martian Cocaine" investments!!
  • This is spooky (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mr. Protocol (73424) on Friday March 16, 2007 @02:05AM (#18372075)
    One of the most gorgeous anime series ever made, "Aria" (two seasons, "Aria the Animation" and "Aria the Natural"), was based on exactly this concept: we terraformed Mars and overshot. It's now a water planet, whose name has been changed to Aqua. An ocean planet of island chains, each set of islands was colonized by a different culture. The animation is set in the city of Neo-Venezia, the original having sunk under the ocean of Earth ("Manhome") long before.

    This story really startled me, because now it's actually sounding possible.

    The year is 2303, and tourists are gliding in gondolas along the canals of Neo-Venezia, in the care of the undines...
  • Scientists recently discovered a large deposit of water deep in the Earth's molten rock, many (hundreds) of miles under the crust layer. Perhaps more Mars water is locked up there. If it took us that long to find it on Earth, how will we find it on Mars? And how will we find whether that extra water was ever on the surface?
  • by N3wsByt3 (758224) <NewsbyteNO@SPAMfreenethelp.org> on Friday March 16, 2007 @08:26AM (#18373887) Homepage Journal
    I read a lot of critics about the terraformation of Mars like this one: "The conditions that caused the loss of the original atmosphere are still present"

    That is far from certain. It seems many people are going with the assumption that the theory that the gravity-field of mars is too puny to hold the watermolecules (and thus the atmosphere dissapeating into space in a copple of thousand years), is a fact. However, this is only one of many theories existing to explain the lack of an (considerable) atmosphere on Mars. Another variant of that theory to explain it is that the atmosphere got largely blown away by meteor-impacts in the first half-billion years of the existence of our solarsystem (there was a period of a large amount of meteor(hits) then, as proven by craters on the moon and other planets).

    Now, if that's true, and seen the fact that fase is long since over, then, if we were able to revive a useful atmosphere, it could well be that it could sustain itself, or at least last for millions of years. No more mass amounts of impacts that blow the atmosphere away, after all. (BTW, all atmospheres lose molecules to space, but it gets more then enough back from tiny (and bigger) particles falling down to earth; this may be true for Mars as well, EVEN if the atmosphere dissapeates faster).

    I'm not saying this IS true, but it's one of the many theories out there that try to explain the current state of Mars. Untill we know the actual truth about the matter, it's far too soon to claim terraforming isn't possible on Mars. Depending on the cause for Mars' thin atmosphere, and the level of replenishment, it might well be a viable option.

  • On Mars (Score:3, Funny)

    by RexRhino (769423) on Friday March 16, 2007 @01:38PM (#18378395)
    It would have been way more awesome if they discovered enormous amounts of frozen pizza on Mars.

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