COUNCIL CHRONICLE – Ariel Deutsch, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, states that Mercury may have over 840,000 acres of ice on its surface.
Scientists, including Deutsch, say that there may be much more, and claim to be surprised by the finding. This is because the planet is considered to have a scorching hot temperature of about 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most of the ice deposits are believed to be hidden at the bottom of crevices near the planet’s North Pole. These crevices are so deep that the Sun never reaches their bottom and also because the planet tilts very little on its axis.
How Scientists Detected the Mercury Ice Deposits
Researchers first arrived at the hypothesis that there might be ice on Mercury in 1990. At the time, the Messenger spacecraft started sending back more than 25,000 images and data sets from the planet. Scientists were amazed when they first started noting icy formations in the craters.
However, they are even more amazed at the number of ice deposits that research indicates might be hiding underneath the surface of the planet. Most of the ice can reportedly be located in four patches inside craters. This is based on the images sent back by the Messenger mission.
Deutsch says that “We think there are probably many, many more of these, ranging in sizes from a kilometer down to a few centimeters”.
He also continued that researchers believe that the bright patches seen on the surface of the scorching Mercury may possible be icy regions. Scientists will continue studying the images received from the Messenger. However, they will have to rely solely on them in trying to spot ice deposits on Mercury.
No new images will be received because the National Aeronautic Space Agency purposefully crashed the satellite into the earth’s surface in 2015. One hundred percent of the planet’s surface was imaged before the satellite was crashed.
Also, scientists are still puzzled about how the ice got there in the first place. Some suggest that this might have come from the Haley comet crashing into Mercury’s surface. Others theorize that the water came from a comet starting near Saturn.
Current study results are available in a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Image Source: Wikimedia