March 29, 2022

Ice on Mars gives a peek into the red planet’s climate history

Key research finding

Understanding the relationship between Mars’ climate and its axial tilt and orbit around the sun is one of the most important goals of Mars science. Most past studies toward this goal have studied the polar ice caps: huge sheets of water ice at the north and south pole. To gain more insight, a team of researchers, led by Michael Sori of Purdue University, have, instead, studied smaller ice deposits (only tens of kilometers in diameter) near the north and south pole but separate from the larger polar ice caps, located inside craters. The team found that the ice deposit in Burroughs Crater contains particularly good evidence that recent Martian climate is strongly controlled by changes in the planet’s orbit and axial tilt. 

Purdue professor’s expertise

Michael Sori, assistant professor in Purdue University Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences in the College of Science, uses robotic spacecraft missions and numerical models to study planetary geophysics and surface processes throughout the solid planets and moons of the solar system. 

Journal name

Geophysical Research Letters. Article available online

Funding

NASA’s Mars Data Analysis Program

Brief summary of methods

The team used images from NASA’s HiRISE camera to study ice inside the Burroughs Crater in the south polar region of Mars. HiRISE is a high-resolution camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The team used computer software to study the shape of layers in the ice deposit and compared patterns in the layer shapes to known variations in Mars’ orbit and axial tilt.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last four years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://stories.purdue.edu

Media contact: Brittany Steff, bsteff@purdue.edu

Source: Michael Sori, msori@purdue.edu 


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