Astronomers found huge deposits of ice on mercury

© NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of WashingtonФотография one of the «smooth plains», in the earth, MESSENGER found traces of the ancient magnetic fieldAstronomers found huge deposits of ice on mercury© NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Re-analyze the images and data from the probe «Messenger» revealed substantial supplies of ice not only in large but also in small craters at the poles of mercury, according to a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

«We considered that ice is present on the surface of mercury only in large craters. We found evidence that there are small pools of water. If you calculate their total area and volume, water on mercury is significantly increased,» — says Ariel Deutsch (Deutsch Ariel) from brown University (USA).

The American space Agency NASA launched a probe «Messenger» in 2004. He became the first spacecraft sent to mercury after the probe Mariner 10, which flew close to the planet-«the Herald» 16 March 1975. In April 2015, after the exhaustion of the fuel reserves, «Messenger» was laid on the surface of mercury.

In June 2011 scientists have discovered that mercury’s magnetic center is not located in the center of the planet, but offset to the North, which «planet-Herald» its magnetic field is askew. In addition, «Messenger» found on mercury traces «violent volcanic youth» and proved the possibility of the existence of frozen water in deep craters at the poles of the planet.

This discovery, says Deutsch, came as a great surprise to planetary scientists, however, the conditions on the permanently dark poles of mercury were sufficiently favorable to ensure that the ice did not melt under the action of the solar wind and the rays of the sun. Trying to figure out how it got there, Deutsch and his colleagues have mapped the ice deposits on mercury, using data from instruments «Messenger».

According to planetary scientists, they were looking for deposits of ice in a very simple way — the tracking how changing the albedo (reflectivity) at the bottom of the large and small craters. Ice reflects light much better than rock the first planet of the Solar system, so you can find not only exposed deposits of frozen moisture, but also its reserves, hidden under a thin layer of dust and fragments of rocks.

As it turned out, the volume of reserves of ice on mercury have been grossly underestimated – their total area only in the three largest craters, as estimated by Deutsch and his colleagues, is at least 3.4 thousand square kilometers. At least the ice reserves, they estimated, lie under the soil in the plains surrounding the craters, and in four small craters with a diameter of about five kilometers in the far North and South of mercury.

This discovery makes the story of the appearance of ice on the surface of mercury is even more mysterious than before. According to planetary scientists, it can be like comets and asteroids, and the solar wind, and it is unclear which of these two hypotheses is closer to the truth. It is possible that the launch of the Russian-European BepiColombo probe in October next year will help to reveal that the first planet in the Solar system.