Mercury’s poles icier than thought: Study

Mercury's poles icier than thought: Study thumbnail
WASHINGTON: There may be much more ice on Mercury’s scorching hot surface than thought, say scientists who have found evidence of frozen water hidden away on crater floors that are permanently shadowed from the Sun’s blistering rays.

A study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found three new craters near Mercury’s north pole that appear to harbour large surface ice deposits.

The research also shows evidence of smaller-scale deposits scattered around Mercury’s north pole, both inside craters and in shadowed terrain between craters.

Those deposits may be small, but they could add up to a lot more previously unaccounted – for ice, researchers said.

“The assumption has been that surface ice on Mercury exists predominantly in large craters, but we show evidence for these smaller-scale deposits as well,” said Ariel Deutsch, PhD candidate at Brown University in the US.

“Adding these small-scale deposits to the large deposits within craters adds significantly to the surface ice inventory on Mercury,” said Deutsch.

The idea that Mercury might have frozen water emerged in the 1990s, when Earth-based radar telescopes detected highly reflective regions inside several craters near the planet’s poles.

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