Scientists at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) have reported the possible discovery of a giant accumulation of water ice on Mars at the bottom of the Mariner Valleys. This was announced in a press release on the website of the institute.
The researchers analyzed data recorded by the neutron telescope FREND on board the Trace Gas Orbiter of the Russian-European mission ExoMars. FREND is designed to map the sources of neutron flux from the surface of Mars with high spatial resolution. Such sources are clusters of hydrogen atoms (for example, in the composition of water molecules) in the near-surface layer of the Red Planet to a depth of one meter. Neutron fluxes arise from the bombardment of water ice by cosmic rays.
Scientists have found that there is an area near Candor Chasma in the Mariner Valleys that shows signs of a large accumulation of hydrogen. In terms of water, this must correspond to a mass fraction of about 40 percent in the substance. This amount may be due to the presence of a huge glacier of water ice. In this case, its area reaches 41 thousand square kilometers. Future expeditions to Mars will help to confirm its existence.
It is known that hydrogen is most abundant in the polar regions of permafrost compared to the equatorial strip, where the near-surface ice quickly sublimates. Water here is usually contained as part of hydrated minerals or as a monomolecular layer on the regolith surface. However, the low resolution of available maps has so far prevented the identification of individual areas enriched in hydrogen due to relief features.