Rocky glaciers on Earth and Mars

Scientists have developed a new method for studying glaciers hidden under rocks. Their study on Earth will allow us to understand whether it is possible to use similar objects on Mars as a source of water for future settlements on this planet.

Ice is hidden under these rocks. Source:

Rocky glaciers on Earth

Usually a glacier is represented as a solid huge mass of ice. However, a significant percentage of them is really a mixture with rock blocks, which form a kind of composite. At the same time, a significant part of the rock fragments is closer to the surface and sometimes forms a continuous layer.

This layer reliably covers the mass of ice from both sunlight and human eyes, so we still don’t know exactly what these formations are. It was this question that planetary scientists from the University of Arizona decided to investigate.

The object of their research was rocky glaciers in Colorado, Wyoming and Alaska. As a rule, they are much smaller both in thickness and in length than those that consist entirely of ice. Nevertheless, many mountain rivers originate from these geological features.

The researchers used radar equipment carried on their backs. Two pairs of antennas spaced apart by two people made it possible to use the parallactic displacement and create a three-dimensional image, just as a pair of human eyes allows determining the distance to an object.

Exploring Mars on Earth

The researchers can not only determine how the stone fragments are distributed inside the glacier, but also assess the impact of climate change on it. All this will make it possible in the future to better understand what unexpected consequences of anthropogenic activity to prepare for.

However, the scientists who conducted this study were more interested in the cosmic application of its results. The fact is that rocky glaciers exist not only on Earth, but also on Mars. There they were identified by their characteristic features thanks to images from orbit.

Very little is known about them. Usually these glaciers are found in the temperate latitudes of the red planet between 30 and 60 degrees latitude in both hemispheres. Scientists hope that they will have enough water to provide a settlement with it when people arrive on Mars in the future.

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