(Image: ESA/DLR/F U Berlin/G Neukum)
"Pack ice" suggests frozen sea on Mars
A frozen sea, surviving as blocks of pack ice, may lie just beneath the surface of Mars, suggest observations from Europe's Mars Express spacecraft. The sea is just 5° north of the Martian equator and would be the first discovery of a large body of water beyond the planet's polar ice caps.It's a little too cold for a beach house but water is like gold once you leave the earth as it would be a source of both oxygen and spacecraft fuel.
Images from the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express show raft-like ground structures - dubbed "plates" - that look similar to ice formations near Earth's poles, according to an international team of scientists.
But the site of the plates, near the equator, means that sunlight should have melted any ice there. So the team suggests that a layer of volcanic ash, perhaps a few centimetres thick, may protect the structures.
"I think it's fairly plausible," says Michael Carr, an expert on Martian water at the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, who was not part of the team. He says scientists had previously suspected there was a past water source north of the Elysium plates. "We know where the water came from," Carr told New Scientist. "You can trace the valleys carved by water down to this area."