Mercury Ice Found On Hottest Planet

Mercury is one if the hottest planet in our solar system, due to being the closest to the sun, but it does contain a considerable amount of ice made of pure water, according to NASA researchers.

Mercury has a surface temperature that ranges between 280 degrees below zero at night and a steamy 800 degrees during the day, however NASA says that its Messenger spacecraft made the discovery of ice on Mercury’s poles which are permanently shaded from the sun.

The ice is found predominantly in impact craters, according to data obtained by Messenger. According to a NASA press release, the tilt of Mercury’s rotational axis is almost zero or less than one degree, so there are pockets at the planet’s poles that never see sunlight. Scientists suggested decades ago that there might be water ice at Mercury’s poles, but the new findings provide”compelling support” for that claim.

“The neutron data indicate that Mercury’s radar-bright polar regions contain, on average, a hydrogen-rich layer more than tens of centimeters thick beneath a surficial layer 10 to 20 centimeters thick that is less rich in hydrogen,” wrote David Lawrence, a Messenger scientist based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “The buried layer has a hydrogen content consistent with nearly pure water ice.”

NASA scientists believe that there is anywhere between 100 billion to one trillion tons of ice currently located on Mercury’s poles. According to Sean C. Solomon, the principal investigator for Messenger, thats enough ice there to encase Washington, D.C., in a frozen block two and a half miles deep.

The ice is almost pure water, which indicates that it arrived within the last few tens of millions of years, possibly from a comet that smacked into Mercury. Dr. Solomon added.

Though the planet has such drastic temperature swings that are not survivable for any known life, one scientists says the discovery could be a resource for colonizing humans.

According to David A. Paige, a professor of geology at U.C.L.A. who calculated the crater temperatures, between the scorched equator and the frozen poles, temperatures on Mercury can be temperate, especially a few feet below the surface, where the soil insulates against the temperature swings between day and night, an ideal location to build a colony.

“People joke about it, but it’s not so crazy, really,” said Paige.

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