Home Science Space MESSENGER confirms: there's lots of ice on Mercury

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The NASA probe MESSENGER has discovered that the planet Mercury, one of the hottest places in the solar system, contains a lot of ice; in fact enough to cover the policial capital of the United States 2.5 miles deep. What an great idea!

Scientist David Lawerence explains how NASA's MESENGER mission's neutron spectroscopy data contributed to the find. YouTube


The planet Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun in the solar system. Consequently, it is extremely hot on the planet's surface.

However, because of craters on the planet, caused by celestial bodies like asteroids impacting the planet, it contains many hidden places, especially around its north and south poles that stay quite cold, in fact, cold enough to house water ice.

Based on data provided by the NASA probe MESSENGER (an acronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging), NASA announced on Thursday, November 29, 2012, that three independent scientific studies have concluded that water ice and organic molecules are found on Mercury.

The New York Times article "On Closest Planet to the Sun, NASA Finds Lots of Ice" states, "Sean C. Solomon, the principal investigator for Messenger, said there was enough ice there to encase Washington, D.C., in a frozen block two and a half miles deep." Now, isn't that a novel idea!

The Guardian article Nasa's Messenger finds water ice and organic molecules on Mercury states, "The presence of ice and organic material adds more weight to the widespread theory that icy comets bombarded the rocky worlds of the inner solar system aeons ago. That bombardment could have brought the oceans to Earth, and supplied our planet with the organic molecules needed to trigger the origin of life."

These organic molecules and water ice are essential for life, but do not mean that primitive life exists on the planet, only that the possibility exists.

The Guardian article adds, "We still do not know how life started on Earth but every time a spacecraft finds more organics in the solar system it gives us another clue. That's why Messenger's find is important. Organics are the "building blocks" of life, or at the very least the raw molecular material."

The YouTube video "Water-Ice On Mercury - How It Was Found" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeBA80pdvNE) describes the process about how water ice was found on the planet Mercury

Its caption states, "It has been estimated that there may be up to 1 trillion metric tons of water ice on Mercury. Scientist David Lawerence explains how NASA's MESENGER mission's neutron spectroscopy data contributed to the find."


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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University