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NASA Announces Identification of Water Ice on Mercury: VIDEO


Mercury, the planet closet to the sun, has plentiful amounts of water ice, NASA reports:

The findings from the Messenger spacecraft orbiting the planet cap the decades-long search for water on the second-hottest planet in the solar system and may help scientists better understand the origins of the molecular building blocks for life on Earth.

The new research "doesn't mean we have life on Mercury," said UCLA planetary scientist David Paige, lead author of one of three papers published Thursday by the journal Science. "But it is relevant for the question of life in the solar system in general."

As much as 1.1 trillion tons of ice could lie on or just beneath Mercury's surface in the nooks and crannies of craters that never see sunlight, according to scientists working on the Messenger mission. Much of that ice may be protected by a dark layer of carbon-rich organic material several inches thick, they said.

Watch NASA's press conference, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. This is fascinating stuff. Mercury doesn't even have an atmosphere.

    Posted by: Gast | Nov 30, 2012 12:01:39 PM

  2. OK, I'm confused. You state the ice may be under "a dark layer of carbon rich organic material...." All organic material is derived from LIVING organisms. If there is organic matter on Mercury, then there was life on Mercury. But then you say "this doesn't mean we have life on Mercury." Please stop making my head hurt.

    Posted by: Mark | Nov 30, 2012 1:22:55 PM

  3. Not quite, Mark. Organic materials are merely hydrocarbons. No need to originate from living organisms.

    Posted by: LiamB | Nov 30, 2012 1:44:22 PM

  4. @ mark organic compounds don't necessarily come from something alive they just contain carbon. For example methane is an organic compound and isn't alive and it an be found throughout the solar system. That's all I know about the subject

    Posted by: Will | Nov 30, 2012 1:46:52 PM

  5. Scorpio Sky is the wrestler who thinks it's OK to stir up hatred and violence against gay people.
    Please send this fake Christian a Tweet on @ScorpioSky and tell him what you think about his views.

    Also, his employer's email is Let them hear from you too.

    Posted by: Icebloo | Nov 30, 2012 2:19:28 PM

  6. The reason the organic matter is interesting is that some of the chemical processes needed to create life occurred before the earth was formed or at least cooled. We may have obtained these organic compounds along with water as comets and/or asteroids hit the earth. For some time, we've known that you can find amino acids in meteor/asteroid fragments. More recently, glycine, an amino acid, has been found in dust clouds in interstellar space. Being able to determine the mix of organic compounds available before life emerged on earth would be quite useful in understanding how life got started. If some of the compounds were created over long periods of time before the solar system was even formed, that helps explain how life emerged so quickly.

    Posted by: Bill | Dec 1, 2012 2:09:26 AM

  7. Still confused guys. This is from the University of Minnesota's Soil Science Department. Is ORGANIC MATTER different from ORGANIC MATERIAL? Are we talking about specific compounds that make up organic matter being found on Mercury but not every element that would define the term? Or am I just using a layman's definition (and if so sorry I learned it in college!) Sorry, I'm just a curious kind of guy. Thanks for the interest!

    "Organic matter is the vast array of carbon compounds in soil. Originally created by plants, microbes, and other organisms, these compounds play a variety of roles in nutrient, water, and biological cycles. For simplicity, organic matter can be divided into two major categories: stabilized organic matter which is highly decomposed and stable, and the active fraction which is being actively used and transformed by living plants, animals, and microbes. Two other categories of organic compounds are living organisms and fresh organic residue. These may or may not be included in some definitions of soil organic matter."

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 1, 2012 8:25:58 AM

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