Planets and Moons  ID: 11184

Mercury's Ice Lockers

Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, sits in the hot seat, with temperatures soaring up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Certain spots at the planet's north and south poles, however, remain extremely cold—so cold, in fact, that scientists long suspected this sun-scorched planet of harboring ice. Sure enough, in 2012 NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission reported finding deposits of ice and frozen chemicals at Mercury's north pole. Granted, Mercury doesn't have the same kind of ice cap Earth does. But if all the deposits were added up, there would be enough ice to bury Washington, D.C., under a layer two miles thick. Watch the animation to see just how bone-chillingly dark Mercury's north pole can be, especially in deep craters, where the sun may never shine.

For More Information

NASA.gov


Story Credits

Visualizer/Animator:
Erwan M. Mazarico (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Video Editor:
Dan Gallagher (USRA)

Producer:
Dan Gallagher (USRA)

Scientist:
Gregory A. Neumann (NASA/GSFC)

Writer:
Elizabeth Zubritsky (ADNET Systems Inc.)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Cover image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Video courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
North pole temperature image courtesy of NASA/UCLA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Topography image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Cartoon sequence courtesy of NASA/UCLA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

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NASA Science >> Planets and Moons