It’s time to add Mercury to the list of worlds where you can go ice-skating. Confirming decades of suspicion, a NASA spacecraft has spotted vast deposits of water ice on the planet closest to the sun.
Temperatures on Mercury can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius), but around the north pole, in areas permanently shielded from the sun’s heat, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft found a mix of frozen water and possible organic materials.
Evidence of big pockets of ice is visible from a latitude of 85 degrees north up to the pole, with smaller deposits scattered as far away as 65 degrees north.
The find is so enticing that NASA will direct Messenger’s observation toward that area in the coming months — when the angle of the sun allows — to get a better look, said Gregory Neumann, a Messenger instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.