The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

November 30, 2012

NASA: Closest planet to sun harbors ice

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Just in time for Christmas, scientists have confirmed a vast amount of ice at the north pole — on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.

The findings are from NASA’s Mercury-orbiting probe, Messenger, and the subject of three scientific papers released Thursday by the journal Science.

The frozen water is located in regions of Mercury’s north pole that always are in shadows, essentially impact craters. It’s believed the south pole harbors ice as well, though there are no hard data to support it.

“If you add it all up, you have on the order of 100 billion to 1 trillion metric tons of ice,” said David Lawrence of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. “The uncertainty on that number is just how deep it goes.”

The ice is thought to be at least 1 1/2 feet deep — and possibly as much as 65 feet deep.

There’s enough polar ice at Mercury to bury an area the size of Washington, D.C., by two to 2 1/2 miles deep, said Lawrence, the lead author of one of the papers.

For two decades, radar measurements taken from Earth have suggested the presence of ice at Mercury’s poles. Now scientists know for sure, thanks to Messenger, the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

The water almost certainly came from impacting comets, or possibly asteroids. Ice is found at the surface, as well as buried under a dark material.

Messenger was launched in 2004 and went into orbit one-and-a-half years ago around Mercury, where temperatures reach 800 degrees. NASA hopes to continue observations well into next year.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Senate approves new VA secretary

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary, with a mission to overhaul an agency beleaguered by long veterans’ waits for health care and VA ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Senate passes highway bill, sends it to House

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday voted to change the funding and timing of a House bill to keep federal highway funds flowing to states in an effort to force Congress to come to grips with chronic funding problems that have plagued ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Israel targets Hamas infrastructures in latest round of bombing

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel unleashed its heaviest bombardment in a 3-week-old war against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that Palestinian officials said shut down the ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Be ready for ‘prolonged’ Gaza war, prime minister says

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Signaling an escalation of Israel’s Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday to be ready for a “prolonged” war, and the military warned Palestinians in three large neighborhoods to ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Deal to improve health care costs $17B

    WASHINGTON — A bipartisan deal announced Monday would authorize about $17 billion to help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat veterans and make it easier to fire executives at the Department of ...

    July 29, 2014

  • FedEx charges raising online pharmacy issues

    SAN FRANCISCO — FedEx Corp., the latest company accused in a federal probe involving illegal online pharmacies, says it will fight the charges that it knowingly shipped drugs to people who lack valid prescriptions....

    July 27, 2014

  • EU, U.S. seek to curb Putin’s Ukraine course

    BRUSSELS — Months after Russia annexed Crimea and stepped up support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, Europe and the United States are still searching for a way to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course....

    July 27, 2014

  • Fighting intense near crash

    DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian armed forces mounted a major onslaught against pro-Russian separatist fighters Sunday in an attempt to gain control over the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed earlier this month....

    July 27, 2014

  • Gaza war rages despite truce pledges

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday....

    July 27, 2014

  • Hamas fires rockets on Israel, ending 12-hour lull

    BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — Hamas said it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 ...

    July 27, 2014