Source: NASA News
Thickness Map of Buried Carbon-Dioxide Deposit.
Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sapienza University of Rome/Southwest Research Institute.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has discovered the total amount of atmosphere on Mars changes dramatically as the tilt of the planet's axis varies. This process can affect the stability of liquid water if it exists on the Martian surface and increase the frequency and severity of Martian dust storms.
Researchers using MRO's ground-penetrating radar identified a large, buried deposit of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, at the Red Planet's south pole. The scientists suspect that much of this carbon dioxide enters the planet's atmosphere and swells the atmosphere's mass when Mars' tilt increases. The findings are published in a report in the journal Science.
The newly found deposit has a volume similar to Lake Superior's nearly 3,000 cubic miles. The deposit holds up to 80 percent as much carbon dioxide as today's Martian atmosphere. Collapse pits caused by dry ice sublimation and other clues suggest the deposit is in a dissipating phase, adding gas to the atmosphere each year. Mars' atmosphere is about 95 percent carbon dioxide, in contrast to Earth's much thicker atmosphere, which is less than .04 percent carbon dioxide. (read more)