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Space Mars

Possible Active Glacier Found On Mars 143

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the dr-neukum-forever dept.
FireFury03 writes "The European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has spotted an icy feature which appears to be a young active glacier. Dr Gerhard Neukum, chief scientist on the spacecraft's High Resolution Stereo Camera said 'We have not yet been able to see the spectral signature of water. But we will fly over it in the coming months and take measurements. On the glacial ridges we can see white tips, which can only be freshly exposed ice'. Estimates place the glacier at 10,000 — 100,000 years old."
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Possible Active Glacier Found On Mars

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  • by Dr_Banzai (111657) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:19PM (#21757450) Homepage
    This might be a good place to land a Mars mission because you could use the ice to create oxygen, water, fuel etc.
    • by CrackPipePls (1205568) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:24PM (#21757506)
      and more importantly, to cool beer :-)
    • I don't know, from the pictures that ice looks really dirty. Who'd want to drink any of that?
      • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:36PM (#21757680) Homepage Journal
        When it's a choice between that and your own urine, which has been reprocessed through the spaceship urine reprocessing system 700 times, the dirty ice will start to look mighty appealing.
        • Statistically speaking every glass of water you drink contains water molecules which once passed through the bladder of Attila the Hun. Or something like that.
          • Yeah, but its not the water molecules that are the problem. It's the other molecules mixed in with the water...
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Urkki (668283)

          When it's a choice between that and your own urine, which has been reprocessed through the spaceship urine reprocessing system 700 times, the dirty ice will start to look mighty appealing.

          Yes, because, you know, repeated artificial reprosessing of waste will wear out the water molecules. The electrons get all fractured, H-atoms may te twisted to wrong angles, little feces and urine particles may get stuck between the two H-atoms, and so on. Natural prosesses are much better because then the power of the Gaia (in this case the Martian Gaia) will be able to heal the damage in water molecules. And healthy water molecules will have the energy and will to keep themselves clean too, just like

        • by mcrbids (148650)
          When it's a choice between that and your own urine, which has been reprocessed through the spaceship urine reprocessing system 700 times, the dirty ice will start to look mighty appealing.

          The water that pours out of your sink has been urine so many times, it's impossible to count. There's clean water, and there's dirty water. Various processes clean water, (such as evaporation & condensation) and various processes dirty water (such as drinking it) but that's all there is.

          I remember reading a thesis whic
          • by Greyfox (87712)
            It's not so much where it's been as how it's been reprocessed. People don't really pay attention, but water has a distinct flavor and that flavor changes regionally. Distilled water tastes "flat" and "lifeless" to a lot of people and I'm sure that water that's been distilled from urine a few hundred times on a spaceship will not taste very good at all. A fresh source will surely appeal to the astronauts.

            In any event, to follow your logic, drinking water from that "dirty" ice on Mars will afford the astron

          • ...the infamous nonexistence of England's King Louis.

            There. Fixed it for you.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_of_England [wikipedia.org]

            Or maybe I should say voilà... comme neuf pour toi.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_French_monarchs [wikipedia.org]
      • by Mikachu (972457)
        That's a silly thing to say. Ever seen some of the water you drink before it's been processed? That ice looks downright clean to me.
    • This might be a good place to land a Mars mission because you could use the ice to create oxygen, water, fuel etc....and keep the beer cold.
  • Sweet! (Score:5, Funny)

    by scubamage (727538) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:21PM (#21757472)
    The doctor in the article is named Dr. Neukem. If his first name is Duke, I would not want to be the one to contest his theory.
    • Sorry, his full name is; Dr Gerhard Neukum
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by UncleTogie (1004853) *

        Sorry, his full name is; Dr Gerhard Neukum

        Actually, his name is Gerhard Neukum. His title is Dr...

        I'm a little mistrustful of someone who INSISTS that "white tips ... can only be freshly exposed ice"... There could be a number of other explanations, and I'd hope the team would consider those as well.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I'm a little mistrustful of someone who INSISTS that "white tips ... can only be freshly exposed ice"...

          Agreed 100%. Perhaps now my "Mars is made of meringue" hypothesis will finally be taken seriously!
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          I'm a little mistrustful of someone who INSISTS that "white tips ... can only be freshly exposed ice"... There could be a number of other explanations, and I'd hope the team would consider those as well.

          Given the amount of dut that moves around in the martian atmosphere, it seems reasonable to assume that white tips means new.

          However, after flying over America for the first time a couple of years ago (only my second time in an airplane in forty years), I was amazed at how the ground looked either red or bro
        • by funaho (42567)
          True it could just be that that spot on Mars is where the aliens keep all their cocaine. :)
    • Re:Sweet! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Fx.Dr (915071) <exterminans@nosp ... fthelosthour.com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:25PM (#21757516)
      Why is that? It's not like he'd ever find you. Worst case scenario is that every six years he'd pop his head up to remind you that he's still around.
    • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Funny)

      by AJWM (19027) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @07:45PM (#21758582) Homepage
      You misunderstand (or somebody did).

      It's not Duke Neukem, it's Doc Neukem.

    • by Scooter (8281)
      "This is unique, and there are probably more," said Dr Neukum.

      If this was a line in a movie, no audience would ever buy it unless it was untitled "Ride My Red Rocket" and starred Mike Meyers as the mission leader, and the evil Dr Neukum.

    • by master_p (608214)
      Hey, the first thing that came to mind when reading this article is exactly what you side. Isn't life funny?
  • by gumbo (88087) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:25PM (#21757520) Homepage
    If you thought Hollywood was out of penguin movie fuel (after March, Happy Feet, and the other animated one that I can't remember the name of), this is just the thing they've been waiting for. Cute green Martian penguins dancing around on an iceberg. Fun for everybody!
  • Not a surprise. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AJWM (19027)
    We've known there was ice on Mars for a century or more. It is visible from Earth through any reasonably good telescope. You know, those white things at the poles?

    Sure, in winter they get bigger from frozen out CO2, but there's a year-round permanent cap of water ice. Glaciers, permafrost, pingoes and other signs of ice should not be a surprise. Okay, a glacier on the Martian equator might be a surprise, except perhaps on one of the Tharsis Bulge volcanoes or Nix Olympica (er, Olympus Mons to you young
    • Re:Not a surprise. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:29PM (#21757570) Journal
      I think the pleasure out of this finding is yet more evidence that Mars is an *active* planet. We've known for over a century about Martian seasons, for quite some time about the vast dust storms, and recently there have been some tanatalizing hints of ongoing vulcanism, and now an active glacier. For a glacier to be active, it means there has to be some sort of hydrological cycle to replenish the ice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wizardforce (1005805)

      Okay, a glacier on the Martian equator might be a surprise, except perhaps on one of the Tharsis Bulge volcanoes or Nix Olympica (er, Olympus Mons to you young whippersnappers; now get off my lawn).

      its location is at 47.5N, 28.4E so yes, very odd indeed.

      Yet people seem to be surprised every time there's the merest hint, or act like it's of some cosmic significance. Sheesh.

      yeah, a large percentage of the solar system's material consists of frozen water, no surprise by that account that water exists on Mars,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AJWM (19027)
        Well, 47.5 N is hardly equatorial, but it is further south (by about 8 degrees) than the typical maximum winter extent of the north polar cap, so I'll grant you "odd" but perhaps not "very odd". (We have equatorial glaciers here on Earth at sufficient altitude, although they're disappearing rapidly.)

        I wouldn't be surprised if significant traces of water (ice) are found all over Vastitas Borealis; if it was once a sea bottom (and it bears characteristics of such) there could be a lot left just under the sur
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by zappepcs (820751)
      I'll probably get modded as troll for this, but there is a great desire on much of this planet to ignore anything that is not written down in one of the 'good books'. Unfortunately, Mars was left out of that garden of eden scene... probably still somewhere on the cutting room floor of the FSM's dark room.

      Needless to say, in North America, it is always surprising to find something that is not explained explicitly in one of the good books, even though god supposedly made everything. The possibility that there
      • Re:Not a surprise. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:47PM (#21757794) Journal

        Besides that, I simply cannot wait for the ID explanation of life on Mars.

        Leaving aside the (in my opinion) intellectual dishonesty of ID, a cool (and admittedly fictional) creationist take on the idea of life on Mars: Out of the Silent Planet [slashdot.org] by C. S. Lewis.

        Nothing I'm aware of in creationist canon explicitly excludes the idea of life elsewhere in this universe. It's just not mentioned. Only the most closed-minded would insist "only the things described in $HOLYBOOK happened, nothing else!".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shadowplay00 (1042912)

          Only the most closed-minded would insist "only the things described in $HOLYBOOK happened, nothing else!".
          Unfortunately that describes far too many these days. Even if you were to argue that's a small proportion of active Christians in the US, it's enough to affect attempts to teach science. Look at all the controversies over teaching ID in public schools: do you really think these schoolboard members are terribly open-minded?
          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Unfortunately that describes far too many these days.

            Again, please provide even a single instance of anyone who claims that, for example, penguins don't exist because they aren't (TTBOMK) mentioned in the Bible.

            Honestly, don't you at some level see anything inappropriate in abusing people for offenses you simply made up?

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by sumdumass (711423)
            Your completely off the mark here. The problem isn't people thinking that "if it isn't in the good book it doesn't exist". It isn't even close to that.

            The problem with teaching science isn't anything to do with the bible. It is with how the science is being taught. It is being done in a way that excludes anything else. It is in effect calling religions wrong and to some extent, it (the people teaching it) specifically mentioned it being wrong. While that may be a true statement in your take on things, there
            • So if my religion declares that the atomic makeup of water is H4O, and in science class they teach that it is H2O, then they are violating the constitution?

              Bullshit. And the basics of chemistry are no less questionable than the basics of biology.
              • by sumdumass (711423)
                Aren't you paying attention? It would be against the constitution if the instruction for science in schools said that H2O was the only composition and all other renditions outside of science was incorrect. If they said that H2O was the way science used it and when you stated "well my religion says water is H4O", the answer was when science used the H2O version because it fits with their science where you religion used H4O because it works with it, then thing would be alright.

                It isn't a matter of who is righ
            • "I understand that people think it is absurd to downplay something like evolution . . . because they incorrectly think it is a fact that has been proven."

              In the context of science
              A hypothesis is a proposed fact that is, hopefully, to be proven or disproven.
              A theory is an overall view and understanding of the subject that informs the facts and hypothesis.
              Disproving a fact predicted by a theory (e.g. a hypothesis) will cause the theory to be changed or abandoned.
              Evolution is a fact, as much as the fact that t
              • by sumdumass (711423)
                So is evolution, the common ancestral parts, a fact? Have we seen empirical evidence supporting this Fact. Is there still room for something to change in the theory behind the FACT?

                Evolution is a fact, as much as the fact that the earth revolves around the sun is a fact. Study of the fossil records, of the ecology, of living species, of artificial evolution caused by farming and husbandry over the last few thousand years, and of direct observations of fast breeding creatures like fruit flies and disease-pr

                • by jbengt (874751)
                  "So is evolution, the common ancestral parts, a fact? . . . "
                  Yes. There is plenty of evidence to conclude that there are common ancestors among different species. If, however, you mean to say that all life comes from a single common ancestor, then, no, there is not enough evidence to prove that. But it's not necessary to believe in that in order to believe in evolution.

                  " . . . we don't have any showing the big bang as fact. "
                  I agree, the big bang is not a fact, which is why I left that out of my origina
                  • by sumdumass (711423)

                    Yes. There is plenty of evidence to conclude that there are common ancestors among different species. If, however, you mean to say that all life comes from a single common ancestor, then, no, there is not enough evidence to prove that. But it's not necessary to believe in that in order to believe in evolution.

                    Well, Having "evidence" and having empirical evidence are two different things and my point stands, it isn't fact. As for A single ancestor, wel yea you have to believe that because that is what is b

            • by arkhan_jg (618674)
              You don't think teaching in science classes that 'God/an intelligent being did it' is a violation of the separation of church and state?

              God/intelligent design have no place in a science class, in any fashion. Science is by definition the study of the natural. Religion is by definition the worship of the supernatural. ID/creationism have none of the hallmarks of scientific study. They make no predictions, and cannot be disproven which is a requirement of science.

              The theory of evolution is as true as the theo
              • by sumdumass (711423)

                You don't think teaching in science classes that 'God/an intelligent being did it' is a violation of the separation of church and state?

                Sure it is, But I'm not suggesting you do it. Why do you ask? I'm not advocating intelligent design or anything. Not refuting something doesn't mean advocating. The trick is simple to say nothing about it. And if you have to, limit it to the context at had, IE science, when in science class, Theology when in social studies and so on.

                God/intelligent design have no place

        • by biraneto (886262)
          Actually the universe according to ID is men centered. Men was created as the image of God. They may even find some excuses for some small simple life forms, but they wouldn't be able to explain why there is more advanced life forms in the universe than us. Good for then we still won't be effectively leaving this galaxy for the next centuries. :)
        • by tompaulco (629533)
          I would think the ID explanation of life on Mars would most likely be the same as most scientists: "There isn't any."
          Even if there was, nothing in the Bible says there is no life anywhere else. Jesus once said something to the affect of "I have other sheep which are not of this fold." As Jesus was a carpenter, I think we are not meant to take that literally. Most would say that refers to the Gentiles. But who knows for sure?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)
      Yet people seem to be surprised every time there's the merest hint, or act like it's of some cosmic significance. Sheesh.

      Well maybe this is just me, but I tend to be surprised or excited whenever the actual scientists involved are surprised or excited. Seems like they are the ones who would be best equipped to know what the significance is.

      I'm pretty sure they are already aware of the Martian ice caps, so maybe there's something more significant to this then? Naw, you're right, it's better to use hindsigh
      • by AJWM (19027)
        Scientists act surprised and excited at almost any discovery, partly because it either supports or disagrees with current theory, which in a relatively new field like planetology is interesting either way. But - and forgive me for being cynical - they also do it to encourage those who fund them to keep on funding them. If they'd said "ho hum, we expected that", how do you think the purse-string holders would react the next time the scientists went asking for money?

        Yeah, it's an interesting find in the way
        • by Chris Burke (6130)
          Be cynical all you want. I doubt you know enough about planetary climatology to have said whether or not young, active glaciers were probable based solely on the existence of ancient, permanent ice caps. But now that it has been discovered, it's easy for the cynical to say "Oh of course you would expect to find that, we already knew there was ice, duh". When there's simply more to the issue than that.

          Nobody said that this should shake the very foundations of planetology, or anything even close to that.
          • by AJWM (19027)
            The "young" is yet to be demonstrated. (For that matter, so is whether or not this is really ice, but that seems a reasonable bet.) As for "active" -- if it's a glacier, it flows under the force of gravity, and either advances or (depending on temperature) the leading edge retreats; of course it's active.

            TFA makes a big deal out of the exposed white areas, claiming that ice sublimates quickly on Mars. Well, some places it does, some places it doesn't. If it's exposed on the ridge peaks, that could be b
            • by Chris Burke (6130)
              The "young" is yet to be demonstrated. (For that matter, so is whether or not this is really ice, but that seems a reasonable bet.) As for "active" -- if it's a glacier, it flows under the force of gravity, and either advances or (depending on temperature) the leading edge retreats; of course it's active.

              Yes, as the article noted the results are not certain, so good call there. A retreating glacier is not an active glacier, and an ancient glacier can only stay active if it has its ice renewed as fast or fa
  • Dr Gerhard Neukum
    Duke Nukem
    Really, ask yourself, what are the chances?
    • by geekoid (135745)
      The same odds the a man actually named "McCool" would die in a spaceship accident.

      If I tried to use that name in a game, I would have been laughed at.

  • ... of a white Christmas?
  • With Mar's distance from the Sun I wonder if any of it it dry ice, or any other elements that would normally be a gas on Earth.

    If it melts will it be blamed on Bush?

    • by rrohbeck (944847)
      >With Mar's distance

      This is taking the apostrophe-s-itis a little too far.

      Why hot ga's and melt's too?
  • Missing (Score:4, Funny)

    by Etrias (1121031) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:35PM (#21757666)
    Oh good! Glaciers on Mars. Nice for them to turn up because we're starting to miss a few down here.
  • This is cool. If any Martians ever stuck their tongue on it they should still be there!
  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @07:07PM (#21758022)
    Executive: "How can we get ahold of some of that Mars glacial ice? We could make a killing selling it to the bottled water crowd!"

    R&D: "We could make it a dilute 'blend' with filtered municipal tap water and disclose (in small print) that it is 'filtered for your purity'."

    Marketing: "The bottle cost should be just under $0.05 each (with printing) and we could put on its side in BOLD TYPE: 'Contains REAL Mars Water' and actual unit cost could be $1000 each. Then we could spread a rumor that it has aphrodisiac properties, it worked for the rhinoceros horn market!"...

    NASA Administration Plebe to NASA Director: "Sir, I think I have found a new way to raise REAL corporate money for our manned Mars missions..."
    • by quantaman (517394)

      Executive: "How can we get ahold of some of that Mars glacial ice? We could make a killing selling it to the bottled water crowd!"

      R&D: "We could make it a dilute 'blend' with filtered municipal tap water and disclose (in small print) that it is 'filtered for your purity'."
      In small print?! You clearly know nothing of consumers, it's not "filtered" or "diluted", it's homoeopathy!!

    • by TubeSteak (669689)
      Three words:
      Dehydrated Martian Ice

      Tagline:
      Just add water, then freeze
  • After all, no telling what global warming will do to this thing.
  • so we can melt it

    i am not happy with just denuding mt kilimanjaro of glaciers and melting greenland

    we must do better than this

    global warming? this is the mark of an inferior life form

    solar system warming or darest i dream galactic warming, that should be the goal of mankind!
    • by rucs_hack (784150) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @07:30PM (#21758360)
      Actually, perverse though it sounds, global warming is exactly what we have to do on Mars if its ever to be habitable without assisted environments (posh way of saying biodome..) in a thousand yars or so. All that subsurface ice needs to be melted to bring the oceans back and build a decent atmosphere, one better at deflecting solar radiation.

      Without it we'd have to wait tens of thousands of years, or more, while specially engineered plant life (very basic plant life) and such worked its slow magic on the atmosphere. With a bit of global warming technology (TM) we can shorten the time considerably. If oceans were brought back the process would be much faster.

      The question is how can it be acheived in a way that can be managed, so it doesn't spin out of control. Personally, since I won't be alive in either case, a thing I have in common with everyone reading this, I'd go for the slower option, or even go for the option of spending a few hundred years seeing if there were any remnant native organisms that could be helped back into activity and do the job for us.

      That there are active glaciers is fascinating though. What a shame that almost all of the current environment of mars would need to be destroyed or irreversibly altered in order to host our species. It doesn't bode well for our entry into the interstellar club. How ironic if the destructive aliens we worry about so much in fiction turn out to be us.
      • Actually, perverse though it sounds, global warming is exactly what we have to do on Mars if its ever to be habitable without assisted environments (posh way of saying biodome..) in a thousand yars or so. All that subsurface ice needs to be melted to bring the oceans back and build a decent atmosphere, one better at deflecting solar radiation.

        It's going to take more than that. Even if you managed, somehow, to get a dense atmosphere on Mars (which is a must if you don't want the water to simply boil on the

      • Create a giant yellow 'umbrella' between the sun and mars.
        It would be concave on the mars side and larger then mars. So it would focus more light and heat onto mars. Thus warming it.
        It could also deflect much of the suns bombardment of radiation onto the planet.
  • by L3WKW4RM (228924) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @07:31PM (#21758372) Homepage

    More info and photos on the Martian rock-ice glaciers of Deuteronilus Mensae [asu.edu].

    Now that we've got glaciers and lava tubes [nasa.gov], I'm packing up my crampons and caving gear for a Martian vacation!

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @08:08PM (#21758790)
    Estimates place the glacier at 10,000 -- 100,000 years old.

    They really meant "wild-assed guess", but it sounds more scientific to call it an estimate.
    • by tompaulco (629533)
      Estimates place the glacier at 10,000 -- 100,000 years old.
      What's an order of magnitude among friends?
  • I think this is a hint that we should not go there. We already screwed with our glaciers...

  • Martian scientists believe that their neighboring planet, known as 'Irth' may have had glaciers and polar ice caps in its recent past. These ara believed to have disappeared during the recent geological era known as SUV.
    • Martian scientists believe that their neighboring planet, known as 'Irth' may have had glaciers and polar ice caps in its recent past. These ara believed to have disappeared during the recent geological era known as SUV.

      Some Martian scientists disagree. They believe the proper interpretation of the inhabitants own description of their final days to be the symbols "GW". There are two camps, one of which considers this "GW" to represent the phrase "Global Warming", which would tend to agree with the physic
  • Or something else.

    But they are probably right, it was probably ice from the beverage the giant face dropped when he heard the dismaying news that NASA "proved" he was just a natural rock formation.
  • Not News. (Score:3, Funny)

    by notnAP (846325) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:50PM (#21760784)

    Possible Active Interplanetary Missile Complex Found On Mars


    Now that's news.

  • Now we can actually use Futurama's solution to global warming! All we need to do is bring the glacier back here and stick it in the ocean!

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