One of the most mysterious planets in our solar system is also the closest to the sun. According to data gathered by the Messenger Spacecraft -prior to plunging to its destruction in 2015- the scorching planet has water and organic material present on its surface.
It seems that the closest planet to the sun isn’t a fiery place as researchers thought previously.
The National Aeronautics and Space Agency has confirmed a shocking and counterintuitive finding as they have detected that the closest planet to our Sun, Mercury, has water. Frozen water to be more specific.
Based on data provided by the Messenger Spacecraft before crashing into the planet, undeniable evidence gathered by the mission suggests that the fiery planet isn’t at all as researchers believed.
Interestingly, the amount of water present on Mercury is enough to cover Washington D.C. in ice. However, water isn’t the only thing NASA has managed to detect on Mercury. The Messenger Spacecraft (which smashed into the planet on April 30, 2015, uncovered evidence that there is organic material on Mercury as well. According to scientists, it is believed that Mercury got its dose of organic material the same way our planet did, millions of years ago. Shockingly, that material, according to scientists, were the building blocks of life.
According to NASA, three different instruments on board the spacecraft obtained the mind-boggling results. The discoveries indicate that previous speculations were on track, but are still extraordinary since Mercury is the closest planet to our star, and has no atmosphere to protect it, meaning that the planet gets extremely hot and cold. According to scientists, The planet’s surface temperature can vary from 50 K (-369.67F/-223.15C) to 700 K (800.33F/426.85C).
However, due to the planet’s angle with the Sun, there are certain spots on Mercury that always remain in the shadow, and it’s precisely there, where the ice is hiding, protected from the radiation originating from the sun, together with dark organic deposits that insulate the water from the sun.
However, if all of the above isn’t already exciting, there is more. NASA now believes that this extraordinary ‘complex mix of organic material’ is in fact eerily similar to the material that eventually helped kickstart life on our planet.
Just as this organic material came from outer space towards Earth via comets, NASA scientists speculate that space rocks also transported similar material to Mercury.
In the above image, you can observe the water ice present on Mercury marked in yellow.
The results were obtained using three methods: neutron spectrometry, near-infrared reflectance, and thermal models obtained by Messenger. Scientists firmly believe that the evidence found by the Messenger Spacecraft is unequivocal, and there’s no other compound that could be confused with what scientists found. Every bit of data coincides.
MESSENGER, is a backronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, and also the reference to the Roman mythological messenger, Mercury. MESSENGER entered orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011, becoming the first spacecraft to do so. Following two mission extensions, the MESSENGER spacecraft used the last of its maneuvering propellant and deorbited as planned, impacting the surface of Mercury on April 30, 2015.