Mars at tail-end of ice age that would have seen red planet covered in ice

From ABC News in Science, 27 May 2016:

Mars is at the tail-end of an ice age that would have seen large swathes of the dusty red planet covered with ice.

Radar data from an instrument on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has given scientists an unprecedented glimpse into Mars’ recent climatic history, etched into the layers of its northern polar ice cap.

The study of those ice layers, published today in Science, suggests the last ice age on Mars began retreating about 370,000 years ago.

Ice ages have long been predicted for Mars, based on a combination of the planet’s changing tilt and its variable distance from the Sun — similar to the cycles that impact the Earth’s climate over tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years.

But lead author and planetary scientist Dr Isaac Smith said this is the first time scientists have been able to see the evidence of these cycles in the northern polar ice cap.

“To think that this beautiful ice cap records the layers and the history of Mars is really cool,” Dr Smith said. Read more.

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