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The foot of a Martian glacier

The foot of a Martian glacier
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped, reduced, and enhanced to post here, was taken on February 18, 2024 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists label as the “terminus of possible glacier-like feature.” That feature is at the lower left, at the point where glacier-like material appears to be flowing out of the channel from the northeast but then ending in an area of rough fingers.

That this looks exactly like a glacier does not guarantee that it is one, which is why the scientists insert the word “possible.” Nonetheless, the geology resembles that of a glacier, from the parallel lines along its length as well as its existence inside this channel. The location is also at 49 degrees south latitude, well within the mid-latitude strips on Mars where scientists believe many such glaciers exist.

The overview map below adds further weight to this conclusion. It also suggests that there are even more glaciers on Mars than research up to now has suggested.

Overview map

The white dot on the overview map to the right marks the location, to the east of Argyre Basin. The inset shows the entire channel of this possible glacier, about 20 miles long with a drop of elevation of about a half mile from its head to the north to the terminus, as indicated by the rectangle.

Note the white outline on the overview map that is marked as “glacier country.” A February 2021 paper had provided that outline, noting that region was thick with “ice-rich landforms.”

Note however that the possible glacier above is outside that region. This 20-mile glacier suggests strongly that in the mid-latitudes of Mars it is relatively easy to find ice-rich landforms, even in areas not targeted by previous research.

In other words, outside of its dry equatorial regions, the surface of Mars is very icy. Explorers will not have to dig deep or go far to find the water they need. And we are now mapping it for them.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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