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NASA Space Science

MESSENGER Probe Finds Strong Evidence of Ice On Mercury 80

Posted by timothy
from the spun-rapidly-not-shaken dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "Just in time for the holiday season, the NASA space probe MESSENGER appears to have all but confirmed the existence of ice at Mercury's north pole. Ice has long been suspected to be hiding in permanently shadowed areas in deep craters at the planet's pole, but new data show several converging lines of evidence (thermal and visible light mapping, radar, neutron emission) that as much as a trillion tons of ice may be buried just centimeters deep under the surface. Scientists also see evidence of organic (carbon-based) molecules as well. That's not life, but it's more of an indication that volatile compounds can exist on the solar system's innermost planet." Further, astroengine writes "New results from the MESSENGER spacecraft not only confirm that the planet closest to the sun has ice inside shaded craters near the north pole, but that a thin layer of very dark organic material seems to be covering a good part of the frozen water. Both likely arrived via comets or asteroids millions — or hundreds of millions — of years ago."
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MESSENGER Probe Finds Strong Evidence of Ice On Mercury

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  • Re:Human Colonies (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:24PM (#42135419)

    There is a huge delta-v to go to Mercury and back. Mars is far easier. Even Europa in the gravity well of Jupiter would require less energy for transit back and forth.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:30PM (#42135469) Journal

    You mean the promise that they would announce it at a conference in December (I believe the 8th or so)? You'll have to chill a few days as we are still in November.

  • by compro01 (777531) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @06:35PM (#42135535)

    We've used the "hit it with a heavy object at high velocity" method to analyze a comet.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Impact (spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @10:44PM (#42137985)
    While Mercury does have a magnetic field, I normally don't see it referred to as Earth-like. Usually there are three categories of interaction between the solar wind and a planet: like Earth and Jupiter with a large, well developed magnetosphere, like the moon and Mars where there is virtually no magnetism and it is all interaction of the solar wind directly with surface or atmosphere, and then like Mercury. Mercury's field is about 1% as strong as Earth, which can mostly form a magnetosphere, but in the process of solar wind moving past, it can distort and disturb the magnetosphere such that sections of Mercury's surface are directly exposed to solar wind. So while it would be better than nothing, there would still be random exposure. And it doesn't help that its marginal nature makes it more difficult to model and predict compared to the other more extreme examples.

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