Ice on Mercury

MESSENGER spacecraft provides evidence for frozen water on planet closest to sun

By Stephen Ornes, 15:55 PM December 17, 2012


This image of Mercury’s north pole region shows areas in shadow (red) according to new MESSENGER data and the location of bright spots (yellow) that are likely exposed ice deposits.Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory



Bright spots on Mercury have long tantalized astronomers. The shiny patches have appeared to be swatches of ice. In November, that old idea received new support from a spacecraft that’s been watching the tiny planet. Fresh data from the satellite offer the best evidence yet that frozen water lies exposed in dark craters near the north and south poles of the sun’s nearest neighbor. Even more ice might lie buried out of sight.


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