(Image source: Space.com)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


This week, the Mars rover team threw cold water on the hopes of finding organic molecules on Mars. But Thursday, NASA unveiled a discovery that kind of makes up for it: cold water and organic molecules on Mercury.

The findings come from NASA’s MESSENGER probe, which has been orbiting Mercury since last year. (Video via NASA)

The probe has focused on studying craters around the planet’s north pole. And what they found inside sounds pretty bizarre. (Video via NASA)

“We have very compelling evidence that these regions are indeed filled with water ice.” (Video via NASA)

That’s right, ice on Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. The planet where surface temperatures can reach 700 Kelvin, or 800 degrees fahrenheit — hot enough to melt lead. (Video via UCLA)

“Most people would likely say ‘There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that there’s ice on Mercury...’”
“But it just turns out that at its north pole there are some places where the sun never shines.”
(Video via CBC News)

Because Mercury has no atmosphere, anywhere the sun doesn’t shine can get hundreds of degrees below zero — like the planet’s northern craters. (Video via NASA

The MESSENGER team discovered a reflective material made up mostly of hydrogen in the craters. Water ice is the only substance that fits the bill. (Images via Science)

But hold on, they didn’t just find water ice. They found small pockets of liquid water, with an unusually dark material forming a thin layer on top of the ice. And the most likely explanation?

“These are dark organic-rich deposits. … This organic material may be the same type of organic material that ultimately gave rise to life on Earth.”

That’s right, organic material and liquid water on Mercury. How did it get there?

The most likely explanation is that it came from comets that crashed into Mercury in our solar system’s infancy. In fact, some scientists believe most of Earth’s water and some of its organics arrived on our planet the same way. (Video via UCLA)

Now, to put the reins on the story, “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “alive.” The scientists say they don’t expect atmosphere-less Mercury to have any life on it. But The New York Times suggests maybe we could put some life there.

“The water could also be an intriguing resource for people. Between the scorched equator and the frozen poles, temperatures on Mercury can be temperate, especially a few feet below the surface ... — an ideal location to build a colony.”

The scientists won’t be able to confirm any of their findings until they send another probe capable of doing a little digging. In the meantime, an astronomer for Slate says the findings on Mercury could help us find life elsewhere.

“I don’t think we’ll find life on Mercury, but what this says to me is that the basic ingredients of life can survive formidable circumstances. And that makes me wonder even more if life can get a toehold ... in places where we might have earlier thought it impossible.”

NASA Announces Water Ice and Organics on Mercury

by Steven Sparkman
0
Transcript
Nov 29, 2012

NASA Announces Water Ice and Organics on Mercury

 

(Image source: Space.com)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ZACH TOOMBS


This week, the Mars rover team threw cold water on the hopes of finding organic molecules on Mars. But Thursday, NASA unveiled a discovery that kind of makes up for it: cold water and organic molecules on Mercury.

The findings come from NASA’s MESSENGER probe, which has been orbiting Mercury since last year. (Video via NASA)

The probe has focused on studying craters around the planet’s north pole. And what they found inside sounds pretty bizarre. (Video via NASA)

“We have very compelling evidence that these regions are indeed filled with water ice.” (Video via NASA)

That’s right, ice on Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. The planet where surface temperatures can reach 700 Kelvin, or 800 degrees fahrenheit — hot enough to melt lead. (Video via UCLA)

“Most people would likely say ‘There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that there’s ice on Mercury...’”
“But it just turns out that at its north pole there are some places where the sun never shines.”
(Video via CBC News)

Because Mercury has no atmosphere, anywhere the sun doesn’t shine can get hundreds of degrees below zero — like the planet’s northern craters. (Video via NASA

The MESSENGER team discovered a reflective material made up mostly of hydrogen in the craters. Water ice is the only substance that fits the bill. (Images via Science)

But hold on, they didn’t just find water ice. They found small pockets of liquid water, with an unusually dark material forming a thin layer on top of the ice. And the most likely explanation?

“These are dark organic-rich deposits. … This organic material may be the same type of organic material that ultimately gave rise to life on Earth.”

That’s right, organic material and liquid water on Mercury. How did it get there?

The most likely explanation is that it came from comets that crashed into Mercury in our solar system’s infancy. In fact, some scientists believe most of Earth’s water and some of its organics arrived on our planet the same way. (Video via UCLA)

Now, to put the reins on the story, “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “alive.” The scientists say they don’t expect atmosphere-less Mercury to have any life on it. But The New York Times suggests maybe we could put some life there.

“The water could also be an intriguing resource for people. Between the scorched equator and the frozen poles, temperatures on Mercury can be temperate, especially a few feet below the surface ... — an ideal location to build a colony.”

The scientists won’t be able to confirm any of their findings until they send another probe capable of doing a little digging. In the meantime, an astronomer for Slate says the findings on Mercury could help us find life elsewhere.

“I don’t think we’ll find life on Mercury, but what this says to me is that the basic ingredients of life can survive formidable circumstances. And that makes me wonder even more if life can get a toehold ... in places where we might have earlier thought it impossible.”

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