NASA finds ice on hot Mercury

The Associated Press /

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA spacecraft has confirmed there’s ice at Mercury’s north pole.

Scientists say the orbiting probe, Messenger, has found evidence of frozen water, even though Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. The ice is located in the permanently shadowed region of Mercury’s north pole. It’s thought to be at least 11⁄2 feet deep — and possibly as much as 65 feet deep.

“If you add it all up, you have on the order of 100 billion to 1 trillion metric tons of ice,” said David Lawrence of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. “The uncertainty on that number is just how deep it goes.”

Scientists say it’s likely Mercury’s south pole also has ice, though there are no data to support it. Messenger orbits much closer to the north pole than the south.

Radar measurements for years have suggested the presence of ice. Now scientists know for a fact.