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A Martian mesa in a sea of sand dunes

14 April 2017 Astronomy Now

This image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a small (0.4 kilometre) mesa, one of several surrounded by sand dunes in Noctis Labyrinthyus, an extensively fractured region on the western end of Valles Marineris.

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Martian ice deposit holds as much water as Lake Superior

23 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have determined that frozen beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on the Red Planet there lies about as much water as fills Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes. Scientists examined part of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region with the orbiter’s ground-penetrating instrument, revealing a deposit more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico.

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Fossilised rivers suggest warm, wet ancient Mars

24 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Extensive systems of fossilised riverbeds have been discovered on an ancient region of the Martian surface on a northern plain called Arabia Terra, supporting the idea that the now cold and dry Red Planet had a warm and wet climate about 4 billion years ago, according to University College London-led research.

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Mars gullies likely not formed by liquid water

30 July 2016 Astronomy Now

New findings using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that gullies on modern Mars are likely not being formed by flowing liquid water. This new evidence will allow researchers to further narrow theories about how Martian gullies form, and reveal more details about Mars’ recent geologic processes.

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Scientists find evidence of ice age at Mars’ north pole

27 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Using radar data collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers have found evidence of an ice age recorded in the polar deposits of Mars. Measurements show that about 87,000 cubic kilometres of ice have accumulated at the poles since the end of the last ice age about 370,000 years ago; the majority of the material accumulated at the Martian north pole.

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Evidence builds for ancient under-ice volcanoes on Mars

4 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Volcanoes erupted beneath an ice sheet on Mars billions of years ago, far from any ice sheet on the Red Planet today, new evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests. The research about these volcanoes helps show there was extensive ice on ancient Mars. Such an environment combining heat and moisture could have provided favourable conditions for microbial life.