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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Dec 20, 2007 8:29:04 GMT -6
'Active glacier found' on Mars
A probable active glacier has been identified for the first time on Mars.
The icy feature has been spotted in images from the European Space Agency's (Esa) Mars Express spacecraft.
Ancient glaciers, many millions of years old, have been seen before on the Red Planet, but this one may only be several thousand years old.
The young glacier appears in the Deuteronilus Mensae region between Mars' rugged southern highlands and the flat northern lowlands.
"If it was an image of Earth, I would say 'glacier' right away," Dr Gerhard Neukum, chief scientist on the spacecraft's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) told BBC News.
"We have not yet been able to see the spectral signature of water. But we will fly over it in the coming months and take measurements. On the glacial ridges we can see white tips, which can only be freshly exposed ice."
This is found in very few places on the Red Planet because as soon as ice is exposed to the Martian environment, it sublimates (turns from a solid state directly into gas).
"That means it is an active glacier now. This is unique, and there are probably more," said Dr Neukum.