Today NASA confirmed that Mercury, the closest planet to the sun where temperatures can reach 800 °F, has water ice on its surface.
“For more than 20 years the jury has been deliberating on whether (Mercury) hosts abundant water ice in its permanently shadowed polar regions. MESSENGER has now supplied a unanimous affirmative verdict,” said NASA’s Sean Solomon.
How could a planet so hot have ice on it? Due to the lack of tilt to it’s axis, the north and south poles of Mercury barely receive any sunlight at all.
While this is a pretty big discovery that shows us that H2O may be more prevalent in the universe than we’d thought, scientists also discovered dark materials surrounding the water that they suspect to be organic materials, the building blocks of life.
“Do the dark materials in the polar deposits consist mostly of organic compounds? What kind of chemical reactions has that material experienced? Are there any regions on or within Mercury that might have both liquid water and organic compounds? Only with the continued exploration of Mercury can we hope to make progress on these new questions.”
NASA plans to further investigate both poles moving forward with the Messenger spacecraft.
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