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Friday, December 2, 2005

MARSIS' Strange and Encouraging Results

An overlay of MOLA and MARSIS data.
An overlay of MOLA and MARSIS data.
Credit: ASI/NASA/ESA/Univ. of Rome/JPL/MOLA
MARSIS - the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding - returned data last summer which was only recently used. The data provide direct evidence at what is under the surface of Mars. Other than confirming the existence of buried aquifers, MARSIS has also given us some new mysteries and data to puzzle about. The data revealed what would normally be considered an impact crater, but the surface topography gives no hint at the crater. This crater is ~250km in diameter and buried in the Chryse Planitia region. From the data, scientists have not ruled out the possibility that the crater is partially covered in ice. "The detection of a large buried impact basin suggests that MARSIS data can be used to unveil a population of hidden impact craters in the northern lowlands and elsewhere on the planet," says Jeffrey Plaut, Co-Principal Investigator on MARSIS. "This may force us to reconsider our chronology of the formation and evolution of the surface."

MARSIS was also used to probe the area between 10 and 40 East longitude. The composition of this area had not been known previously. However, MARSIS was able to get two strong and distinct echoes from the area. The echoes suggest that there is a 1km think layer of ice on basaltic regolith. There is no conclusive evidence of liquid water in the subsurface, however.

"MARSIS is already demonstrating the capability to detect structures and layers in the subsurface of Mars which are not detectable by other sensors, past or present," says Giovanni Picardi, MARSIS Principal Investigator. He concluded that "MARSIS holds exciting promise to address, and possibly solve, a number of open questions of major geological significance."

Many thanks to Espen for bringing this article to our attention.

(More info: ESA)

- posted by Jim @ 14:10 EST