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article imageSpace probe finds hints of ice on Mercury

By Darren Brown     Mar 22, 2012 in Science
Scientists analysing data from a space probe that took pictures of Mercury have announced that they have discovered what appears to be ice on the closest planet to the sun.
They claim that the pictures show glaciers tucked away and hidden inside the barren planet's craters, according to the Register.
The shocking discovery comes from NASA's MErcury Surface, Space Environment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, which is the second probe to survey the surface of Mercury, after Mariner was sent there in 1970.
Chief probecraft scientist Sean C Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution said: "From Mercury's extraordinarily dynamic magnetosphere and exosphere to the unexpectedly volatile-rich composition of its surface and interior, our inner planetary neighbor is now seen to be very different from what we imagined just a few years ago. The number and diversity of new findings being presented this week to the scientific community in papers and presentations provide a striking measure of how much we have learned."
Icebergs are possible on Mercury despite it being the closest planet to the sun, thus being far hotter than Earth. The craters that the icebergs have been spotted in are blanketed in eternal shadow, meaning that they are far colder than anywhere on Mercury, allowing icebergs to form.
Water on other planets is important to humanity as it means that a particular planet has the potential to be colonized.
Senior scientist Stanton Peale of California University in Santa Barbara speaks of the discovery of sulfur on the planet: "We didn't expect so much sulfur." Peale says that the sulphurous abundance, coupled with a near-total absence of iron, indicates that the planet's formation was "much more disorderly" than the scientific community have believed before the information from MESSENGER was received.
It was also revealed that the core of Mercury makes up an enormous 85 percent of the planet, and the surface of Mercury is plain and featureless, contradicting the mountainous terrains of planets like Earth and Mars.
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