Professor David Paige explores mystery of ice on mercury

Posted on April 25, 2012

Scientists have long known that certain surface patches on Mercury, the planet first in line from the sun in our solar system, reflect radar signals just like ice does in the polar regions of Earth. To their delight, new data from the orbiting?NASA MESSENGER spacecraft confirm the thesis: The radar-bright spots correspond to the darkest parts of the craters at the north and south poles of the planet where it is cold enough to preserve water ice.

The frigid topic of ice on Mercury became a hot topic of discussion at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference, held in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 19 through 23. There, Professor David Paige from UCLA’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences and a member of the MESSENGER science team revealed some of the new MESSENGER data he and his colleagues had received: Not only is there water ice on Mercury, but also a layer of carbon-rich soil that protects that ice from the heat of the sun.