STATES CHRONICLE – Researchers made an incredible discovery regarding the hottest planet in the Solar System. Given its proximity to the Sun, Mercury is regarded to have a scorching surface. However, they managed to observe certain frozen regions covered in ice, indicating the planet hosts more water than we used to think.
During a thorough analysis of the planet’s surface, researchers noticed the north pole contains three areas covered in ice. The sunlight doesn’t reach the north pole directly, so they managed to exist even if Mercury is situated so close to our star.
The ice-covered areas are permanently away from the sun
After performing more research, scientists found out these areas were constantly in shadow. Also, they had a protective layer above them, which harbors them from the scorching rays of the sun. All of these allowed for the presence of water in its frozen state, showing that tiny Mercury can still surprise us.
What is even more surprising is the fact that these formations might not even be unique. Scientists think there could be other shadowed regions on the surface, where the temperatures are not so high, and sunlight doesn’t get through. These areas might be present on broken terrain, within small cracks and craters in the surface, where ice can resist melting.
The research revealed these areas might have temperatures around -280 degrees Fahrenheit, or even lower. These tiny cracks are quite small, and occupy a small surface, but this is exactly what helps them shelter the ice layer, thus increasing the water deposits of Mercury already present in larger craters.
How did water get on Mercury?
However, how could such a fiery planet harbor water in the first place? Researchers assume most of it has been brought by asteroids which collided with the planet. Another hypothesis suggests solar winds carried hydrogen, and brought it to Mercury. If oxygen was also present there, the two mixed and produced water.
Regardless of where all this water comes from, this is a massive discovery. Now, researchers are trying to find out how such volatile substances get to travel through the Solar System, and how they reach planets where they usually cannot exist. All the details of this study have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Image Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory