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Scientists now have solid evidence to show that ice under the Martian surface varies in depth from location to location

After continuing to receive more detailed information about Mars, U.S. scientists now believe that it is possible that up to half of the Martian surface is covered by ice.  The problem that researchers continue to face is that underground ice depth varies from location to location -- while it can be directly on the surface in one spot, it can be several feet deep just a few feet away.

"We find the top layer of soil has a huge effect on the water ice in the ground," said Arizona State University's Joshua Bandfield.  It was previously believed that Martian ice could be found anywhere from 3 to 6 feet below the surface -- Bandfield's research indicates that it is possible ice can be found just two inches underneath the surface.

Bandfield compares seasonal changes in thermal infrared patterns, after the data was collected with the NASA Odyssey spacecraft, to be able to accurately estimate readings within several hundred feet.  Dusty areas insulate ice, while locations on the surface with large amounts of rocks help pump a lot of heat into the ground -- something that increases the depth where ice will be found.

The Phoenix Mars Mission launches in August; the aim of the mission to put a craft on the surface of Mars to sample the ice.  

Researchers are now trying to estimate how deep the ice on the surface could be.  It is believed that the ice deposits are deep enough that they would cause the creation of large oceans if the deposits were to melt.




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