Mercury's scorching heat may help the planet form ice

How Mercury's close orbit around the Sun and high temperature may cause the planet to produce ice.


NSFW    ATLANTA — Mercury's close orbit around the sun and extreme heat may have helped the planet to generate ice. Writing in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, scientists say solar wind may contribute to a chemical process that forms ice in Mercury's poles.

While much of Mercury is very hot, the planet lacks an atmosphere to dissipate the heat. According to, this allows pockets of cold to exist in the shadows of polar craters, which preserve the ice that exists on Mercury.

In a news release from Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers say Mercury's soil contains hydroxyl [e]groups, or bonded hydrogen and oxygen. After solar winds bombard the substance to 400 degrees Celsius, the oxygen and hydrogen break free to form water.

The scientists say that according to their model, some of the water molecules would break down into their constituent atoms, but the remainder would escape and land on Mercury's poles. This creates ice deposits in the craters.
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