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A Snowball's Chance on Mars (Better Than You Think!)

24 Sep 2009, 18:18 UTC
A Snowball's Chance on Mars (Better Than You Think!)
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

If you think that a snowball’s chance on Mars is roughly the
same as one in the mythical netherworld, park your eyes on this:

It’s ice in the pit of a Martian crater.

The pictures were taken by NASA’s sharp-eyed Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter, which found highly pure, bright ice in five newly formed craters.

Scientists had been comparing MRO images to look for
changes, particularly dark marks associated with meteorite impacts.

“We
saw something very unusual -- this
bright blue material poking up
from the bottom of the crater. It looked a lot like water ice. And sure enough,
when we started monitoring this material, it faded away like you'd expect water
ice to fade,” said Shane Byrne, with the University of Arizona.

Water
ice is unstable on the Martian surface, transforming quickly into atmospheric
water vapor, he added.

Scientists
then used an MRO spectrometer to confirm the material was water.

"All
of this had to happen very quickly because 200 days after we first saw the ice,
it was gone, it was the color of dirt," Byrne said. "If we had taken (the)
images just a few months later, we wouldn't have noticed anything ...

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