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The North Pole of Mars tells of the last ice age on Mars.
Data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter probe NASA have discovered traces of the last ice age on Mars, which ended about 370,000 years ago. As for the earth, these ice ages are the effect of the variation axis of rotation of the planet over hundreds of millions of years.
Cyclical changes in the inclination of the orbit over hundreds of millions of years have changed the climate of Mars to generate real ice ages, that are similar to those on Earth. The signs of these ages have remained in ice deposits found at the poles, and now have been observed thanks to the radar data recorded by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission for NASA.
We discovered an accelerated rate of ice accumulation in the upper layer, between 100 and 300 meters deep, the polar ice caps, the researcher explained, illustrating the results of observation. Volume and ice thickness are consistent with the predictions of the models developed in the 2000s: the ice sheet Radar observations allow us to reconstruct the detailed history of the accumulation of ice and erosion associated with climate change.
Like the Earth, Mars also undergoes seasonal and annual cycles, but also longer cycles, which affect the ice distribution. However, these longer cycles may be stronger on the Red Planet. This is because over time scales of hundreds or thousands of millions of years, the inclination of the Martian rotation changes significantly, up to about 60 degrees. For comparison, the Earth’s axis tilt varies by about two degrees in the same period.
Mars, therefore, the insolation of a certain point on the surface can vary greatly in the long run, and that’s why at all latitudes the ice stability can change dramatically. Because the climate on Mars fluctuates following the large axis of rotation fluctuations, the ice is now distributed differently than in the past. Furthermore, because Mars has not currently oceans, it represents a simplified laboratory for the understanding of the climate on earth. The detailed measurements of ice thickness provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that as of the end of the last ice age on Mars, dating to about 370,000 years ago, have accumulated over the poles about 87,000 cubic kilometers of ice, most of them on North Pole. It is a sufficient amount of ice to cover the entire surface of the planet for a thickness of 60 centimeters. Altogether, the opportunity to study the accumulation of polar ice deposits on Mars opens up a new perspective for the study of planetary parameters, such as the eccentricity of the orbit and axis tilt, and their variations over the time and the climate past and present Martian. With an eye to future manned missions.
Studying the ice on Mars is also important for the future of human exploration of the Red Planet. Water is a critical resource for colonization.
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