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Mars on the rocks

March 22, 2007 |  6:20 pm

Mars_5You've been telling us you want less omphaloskepsis out of Opinion L.A., so here's a topic that's about as far as we can get from Spring Street: We fully approve of the discovery of large amounts of ice on the planet Mars.

Space.com reports that the Red planet "has enough water ice at its south pole to blanket the entire planet in more than 30 feet of water if everything thawed out...

With a radar technique, astronomers have penetrated for the first time about 2.5 miles (nearly four kilometers) beneath the south pole’s frozen surface. The data showed that nearly pure water ice lies beneath.

Discovered in the early 1970s, layered deposits of ice and dust cap the North and South Poles of Mars. Until now, the deposits have been difficult to study closely with existing telescopes and satellites. The current advance comes from a probe of the deposits using an instrument aboard the Mars Express orbiter.

Santaclausvmartians Radar echo sounding reveals that about 90 percent of the polar cap is water ice, with some mixture of dust. This is on top of (or actually below, depending on which side of the polar wander we're on) the large amount of ice already known to be packed into the North Pole. More on that at David Darling's brilliant and essential Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy and Spaceflight.

So dream on, terraformers! There may yet be octuple-black-diamond snowboarding on the geologically dead planet. The astronaut-hatin' curmudgeons at the L.A. Times editorial board, of course, will have none of Red Planet real estate. But as with all things at the Times Opinion section, that may be subject to very rapid change.

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