York University collaborates on research to study role of ice in shaping Mars’ regions

York University is part of an international research team that has identified an ice-rich deposit in Mars’ northern plains, which in turn explains a key role of ice in shaping the region.

The International Space Science Institute (ISSI) team has been assembled to study targeted basins (Utopia, Acidalia and Arcadia Planitiae) in the northern plains of Mars, with a focus on characterization of icy formations. Members of the team include Professor Isaac B. Smith from York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, researchers with expertise in planetary mapping from several European institutions and colleagues in the U.S.

Localization of the studied regions in the northern plains of Mars

Localization of the studied regions in the northern plains of Mars

The northern plains of Mars comprise several basins filled by sediments and the region is thought to have hosted an ancient ocean. Currently, it contains ice in the ground, even at latitudes where the ice should not be stable. It is unknown whether the origin of the ice relates to the ancient ocean or recent glaciations. The ages of different surfaces and landforms are also not well known.

Using a new mapping approach to investigate the evolution of the climate and geology on Mars, researchers are working to improve the geological context of the northern plains. The team used a grid system along a 300-kilometre-wide strip (east‐west) from latitude 20 degrees to 80 degrees north to create the first continuous map at this scale. The maps of these ice-related landforms are used to understand the distribution and concentration of ice in the ground and the relationship to current climate, which may be different for each basin.

The study shows that Mars’ northern plains appear to be a region of combined depositions of sediment and continuous cold climatic conditions that have partially preserved several ice-rich deposits and a complex distribution of ground ice.

The research is supported by Lassonde’s Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science and the Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering.

For more on this research, see the following studies:

For more York University news, photos and videos, visit the YFile homepage