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Planet closest to sun harbors ice, scientists say

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This photo made available by NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington on Tuesday shows a 68-mile-diameter crater, large indentation at center, in the north polar region of Mercury which has been shown to harbor water ice, thanks to measurements by the Messenger spacecraft. Scientists made the announcement Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. » A NASA spacecraft has confirmed there’s ice at Mercury’s north pole.

Scientists announced today that 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 one-and-a-half feet deep — and possibly as much as 65 feet deep.

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.

Messenger is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. It was launched in 2004.

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