A spacecraft sent by NASA to explore the planet Mercury made a discovery which astronomers not expected. Messenger spacecraft mapped for the first time the entire surface of the planet Mercury including areas that had not been seen before.
The images obtained suggest that there is a frozen water at the poles of the planet. It is surprising, considering that Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun and the surface temperatures can even reach 400 degrees Celsius. However, in some craters at the poles of the planet were observed lighter spots, which suggests the existence of frozen water in several craters.
Until now, this planet has been studied by a single spacecraft Mariner 10 in 1970 – wrote BBC News. Bright spots at the poles were first seen in 1990, with a radio telescope, but until now astronomers did not know what they could be, they not have a clear picture of the planet’s surface.
Scientists who follow Messenger spacecraft mission announced that Mercury has long been active from geological point of view and the craters who formed by asteroids impact were subsequently deformed by these activities inside the planet. Messenger spacecraft was launched in 2004. More information about this spacecraft you can read on wikipedia site.
These reflectance anomalies are concentrated on poleward-facing slopes and are spatially collocated with areas of high radar backscatter postulated to be the result of near-surface water ice,
writes Gregory Neumann.
Correlation of observed reflectance with modeled temperatures indicates that the optically bright regions are consistent with surface water ice.
Sean Solomon ~ principal investigator of the MESSENGER mission writes:
For more than 20 years the jury has been deliberating on whether the planet closest to the Sun hosts abundant water ice in its permanently shadowed polar regions. MESSENGER has now supplied a unanimous affirmative verdict.
But the new observations have also raised new questions,
Do the dark materials in the polar deposits consist mostly of organic compounds? What kind of chemical reactions has that material experienced? Are there any regions on or within Mercury that might have both liquid water and organic compounds? Only with the continued exploration of Mercury can we hope to make progress on these new questions.