Ali Bramson knew she was onto something when she spotted a “crazy looking crater” on the face of Mars.
Trying to explain the crater’s strange shape, Bramson, a graduate student in the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), and her colleagues zeroed in on the fact it was terraced, rather than bowl-shaped like most craters of this size.
Terraces can form when there are layers of different materials in the planet’s subsurface, such as dirt, ice or rock.
In this case, there was ice – and lots of it. Beneath the surface, they discovered an enormous slab of water ice, measuring 130 feet thick and covering an area equivalent to that of California and Texas combined. The ice was the result, the authors wrote, of snowfall “which can most easily explain the thickness and widespread nature of the excess ice observed.”
To locate the ice, the researchers turned to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment operated out of LPL. […]