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Water on Mercury

December 3, 2012

Scientists discover water on the planet Mercury.



Water near the sun. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, and hits temperatures of 800 degrees fahrenheit. But now scientists from the MESSENGER Mission to planet Mercury report in the journal Science that they’ve found water ice on the planet. It’s sitting inside polar craters in areas of permanent shade. Project Leader Sean Solomon told an excited crowd at NASA headquarters that they also found volatile organic compounds forming a black goo on the ice.


The fact that we see it on the planet that is closest to the sun is astounding enough. But the fact that it also informs our ability to work out the history of volatile delivery on Earth and Mars and Venus is very special.


The ancient materials could help scientists better understand the planetary origins of water and organics, which are the building blocks of life. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Left: A mosaic of MESSENGER images of Mercury's North Polar Region. Right: Permanently shadowed polar craters. (NASA)