3D Radargram of Mars’ North Polar Cap Reveals ‘Deeply Buried Structure’

Scientists got a much improved view of the interior of Mars’ north polar cap.

We’ll probably soon know whether Mars supported life in the distant past, or perhaps even today. Many rovers and orbiters explore the Red Planet in an attempt to better understand what Mars was like billions of years ago, what it is like today, and what it will be like in the future. Today, scientists used the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, aka MRO, to observe Mars’ north polar cap. According to a statement released by the Planetary Institute , the MRO data allowed scientists to get a perspective view of the interior of Planum Boreum itself.

A view of the 3D Radargram with annotations. Image credit: Credit: PSI/ASI/JPL/NASA

The Martian North Pole

Planum Boreum is the northern polar plain of Mars. It is home to a year-round ice cap, composed mostly of water ice. Its volume was estimated at about 1.2 million cubic kilometers. According to our latest calculations, its radius is about 600 kilometers. Its maximum depth is measured at 3 kilometers. The data provided by MRO has allowed scientists to get a much more accurate view of the interior of the northern polar cap. The three-dimensional radargram was assembled from data from various two-dimensional profiles. Additionally, the new radargram reveals many features that were previously impossible to map.

The data was obtained using the hallow radar instrument (SHARAD). SHARD is a state-of-the-art tool that has the ability to probe the subsurface up to four kilometers deep. The instrument emits radar waves ranging from 15 to 25 megahertz. This allows it to reach a depth resolution of around 15 meters. A paper describing the result was published in the Planetary Science Journal .

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