NASA Scientists Discovered Ice on Planet Mercury

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By Jenalyn Villamarin | December 4, 2012 10:44 AM EST

NASA scientists claim they have discovered approximately 1 trillion tons of ice inside the craters near planet Mercury's Northern pole.

The team of scientists also stated that further analysis of the material can expose more information about the building blocks of life on other planets. The astounding discovery came after eight long years since NASA's Messenger spacecraft launch in 2004.

Despite being closest to the sun with a surface temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit, the planet Mercury barely inclines causing some of its pole areas to never see the sunlight.

With the use of gathered evidence on reflectivity, surface temperatures and existence of excess hydrogen, NASA scientists concluded there are deposits of ice as well as other organic materials that build up in the dark regions of Mercury's surface.

"Messenger has revealed a very important chapter in the story of how water ice and other volatile materials have been delivered to the inner planets, including Mercury," Sean C. Solomon, a Columbia University scientist who is principal investigator of the Messenger mission, stated.

The temperature at the dark areas gets as frosty as -350 degrees Fahrenheit.

"It's similar to how they found unexpectedly large amounts of water on the moon a while ago. It has been theorized to be a possibility but definitely not something expected," Haywood Smith, UF Associate Professor of Astronomy, stated.

Meanwhile, most of the study was based at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland and at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. The scientists printed out their research in three papers which was released in the journal "Science Express."

NASA scientists confirmed the evidence put together supported their hypothesis on ice deposits. "They're difficult, challenging results and to have them all come together in this way is kind of like a key. You get the right key and turn the lock and the door opens," David J. Lawrence of the Hopkins lab, a scientist involved in the Messenger mission, revealed.

These scientists believe the ice and organic material that formed in the dark areas of craters developed after comets and asteroids distributed the material to Mercury's surface. They also do not anticipate discovering water in liquid form. "The finding bodes well for a continued search for water elsewhere in the solar system," James L. Green, Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, stated.

"No one is saying there is life on Mercury. The planet is becoming an object of astrobiological interest where it wasn't one before," scientist Sean C. Solomon further added.

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