July, 2004: Map of Martian Hydrogen at the North Pole
This gamma ray spectrometer map centered on the north pole of Mars is based on gamma rays from the element hydrogen. In this region, hydrogen is mainly in the form of water ice. Regions of high ice content are shown in violet and blue and those low in ice content are shown in red. The very ice-rich region at the north pole is due to a permanent polar cap of water ice on the surface. Elsewhere in this region, the ice is buried under several to a few tens of centimeters of dry soil. The sub-surface ice is not uniformly distributed in the north, but varies with both latitude and longitude. In the north, the soil is well over 50 percent ice, which is more than can be accommodated by just filling the pore space in pre-existing soil. This high ice content implies that the ice may have been slowly co-deposited with dust in the past when conditions were wetter. Deposition of ice by this process means it is more likely that the ice deposits are very thick and may even be deep enough to have liquid water at their base.