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Many of the craters of Mars and Pluto feature relatively small ice islands unattached to their polar ice caps.
These ice islands could be records of past climate change on Mars and Pluto, and could also provide clues about the workings of Martian water and ice, said Mike Sori, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and the lead author of a new study in AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets detailing the new findings.
Work - Ice - Mars - Ice - Cap
Most previous work on ice on Mars had examined the northern polar ice cap on the planet, where other researchers noticed that small domes of ice dozens of miles across persisted inside craters beyond the reach of the main ice sheet.
Sori wanted to see if these features were unique to the planet's north pole, and to find out more about these understudied features.
Mountain - Hole
"It's a mountain within a hole," he said.
The study's authors used different types of instruments from orbiting space craft to examine these features, including images showing the features and topography maps made by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA).
Impact - Craters - Deposits - Ice - Cones
They found 104 large impact craters that had deposits inside, including 31 with relatively circular, domed ice cones in craters in the southern polar region. The other craters had more irregular deposits.
Sori and his co-authors focused on the 31 more regular ice cones for this work since they were most confident that these formations were composed mostly of frozen water.
Stuff - Images
"They don't appear as bright white stuff in images, so it's not super obvious that they're ice if you just look at them," he said.
Once the study authors determined these ice mountains seemed to be a recurring process on Mars, they widened their study to see if they could find similar features elsewhere in the solar system. They looked at Pluto, which has a big bright ice...
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