Click for full image.
Most of the glacier cool images I have posted in the past few years from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have shown the obvious glacial features found in the northern hemisphere in that 2,000 mile long strip of chaos terrain at about 40 degrees latitude I dub “Glacier Country.”
Today’s glacier image to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, takes us instead to the southern hemisphere, into Hellas Basin, the death valley of Mars. The picture was taken on April 8, 2021, and in the full picture gives us a myriad of examples of glacial features. The section featured to the right focuses in on what appears to be an ice covered south facing slope, which in the southern hemisphere will get the least sunlight.
Think of the last bits of snow that refuse to melt after a big blizzard. They are always found in shadowed areas, which in the southern hemisphere would be this south-facing slope.
The overview map below shows how this location, marked by the small white rectangle, is inside Hellas Basin, at a low altitude comparable to the northern lowland plains. The feature is also a comparable latitude, 43 degrees south, to the glacier country of the north.
A science paper released today reinforces the impression that these features are glacial, finding from Mars Odyssey orbital data gathered over eleven Martian years that Hellas Basin is likely to contain a lot of water. The scientists found a seasonal variation at Hellas in their detection of what they call epithermal count rates (ECR), and conclude as follows from this:
Only Hellas Planitia and Utopia Rupes [Ed: not far from where China’s rover Zhurong landed] undergo a statistically-significant variation in ECRs (and therefore in the hydrogen content in the first meter of their subsurface). This variation is correlated with temperature in both regions, supporting the hypothesis that shallow subsurface water ice might form and sublimate during the cold and warm seasons of each hemisphere.
This paper’s data further confirms other research that also found these regions likely rich in near surface water.
There’s ice in ’em hills! Time for some humans to go and get it!
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