We all know you have heard of rocks earlier than, and you’ve got probably heard of glaciers. However do you know that rock glaciers exist? And never solely right here on Earth — they’re additionally on Mars.
We all know little or no about Mars rock glaciers, however scientists do suspect that they might maintain important quantities of water, which might support future human exploration and settlement on the Red Planet. Thus, a crew of researchers from the College of Arizona has got down to examine their Earth-based brethren so as higher perceive this intriguing geological formation.
A rock glacier is much like a conventional ice glacier, nevertheless it’s crammed with far bigger portions of rocks and sand. That particles is usually picked up when ice glaciers soften and refreeze on the base of mountains, the place that rocky particles usually gathers. Due to their composition, rock glaciers are sometimes a lot smaller than ice glaciers, although they each transfer very slowly over time.
Now if Martian rock glaciers are similar to these on Earth, they may maintain water ice that might be harvested by future Mars explorers. “They’re … extra accessible than polar ice as a result of spacecraft would not have to alter their orbits as a lot as they’d in the event that they had been to land on a pole, which requires much more gasoline to achieve,” Tyler Meng, a doctoral pupil finding out planetary science and geoscience on the College of Arizona who’s collaborating within the analysis, said in a statement (opens in new tab).
To review rock glaciers right here on Earth, the researchers traveled to 4 rock glaciers in Colorado, Wyoming, and Alaska, mapping them in three dimensions with radar gear. “Within the course of, we made essentially the most exact estimates of rock glacier geometry and composition to this point,” Meng stated. That information can be utilized to review the water price range in these mountain areas, as a result of the glaciers function reservoirs — which they hopefully do on Mars, too.
“Our aim is to make use of these rock glaciers on Earth as an analog for processes on Mars,” stated Meng. “By mapping the patterns of particles thickness on Earth, we’re making an attempt to grasp how that particles thickness may range on Mars. Additionally, by studying concerning the variations in stream parameters between clear ice and debris-rich ice, that may assist simulations for the Martian case as properly.”
Subsequent up for the crew: extra measuring. However this time they’re going to not solely be utilizing radar gear, but in addition drones — a way that might maybe in the future be used on Mars with a automobile like NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, which has been flying sorties as a part of the Perseverance rover mission for over a 12 months.
A examine based mostly on the crew’s analysis was printed within the Journal of Glaciology on Oct. 21.
Observe Stefanie Waldek on Twitter @StefanieWaldek. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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