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Ice on Mercury?
November 29, 2012 2:19 PM   Subscribe

New evidence for water ice on Mercury. (via Bad Astronomy at its new home)
posted by curious nu (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
What flavor?
posted by nathancaswell at 2:26 PM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Every librarian on MetaFilter is quietly hoping it's good quality (Hendrick's or Bombay Sapphire) gin.
posted by Wordshore at 2:28 PM on November 29, 2012


So we are all singing Ice on Mercury as David Bowie, right?
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:33 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wonderful! This opens the way for a Mercurial polar habitat, which could serve as a staging point for colonization of the Sun.
posted by Iridic at 2:46 PM on November 29, 2012 [36 favorites]


FTA: According to Paige, the dark material is likely a mix of complex organic compounds delivered to Mercury by the impacts of comets [from Yuggoth] and volatile-rich asteroids, [remnants of the destroyed Fifth Planet], the same objects that likely delivered [the terrible artifacts] to the innermost planet.
posted by hattifattener at 2:50 PM on November 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Uh oh. Now every rare event that's been compared to a snowball in hell is going to happen all at once.
posted by sapere aude at 2:51 PM on November 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wonderful! This opens the way for a Mercurial polar habitat, which could serve as a staging point for colonization of the Sun.

Only at night, of course.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:55 PM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Geez, abundant organic compounds? Water? Possible interaction zones around the edges? That's a pretty good recipe for life right there.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:59 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wordshore: "Every librarian on MetaFilter is quietly hoping it's good quality (Hendrick's or Bombay Sapphire) gin."

I take it you have not yet sampled Bruichladdich's "Botanist" gin? (Bruichladdich as in the distillery mostly known for its excellent Islay Single Malts.)

It's my favorite gin ever. Excellent stuff.

(Edited: for typo and adding link)
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:04 PM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Geez, abundant organic compounds? Water? Possible interaction zones around the edges? That's a pretty good recipe for life right there."

Maybe, but it's so extreme! Freezing cold in the craters, and searing radiation a few feet away. Anything that managed to evolve there deserves an Olympic medal for outstanding achievement in a hostile environment.

But wow, this is so neat. Ancient craters that have been collecting debris for millions or even billions of years. A true "garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom."
posted by Kevin Street at 3:08 PM on November 29, 2012


Just so long as there is no evidence of whisky stones I'm happy.
posted by srboisvert at 3:31 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Water ice"? So Martians are actually from Philly, I take it?
posted by orrnyereg at 4:06 PM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes! Now we can plant the lemon trees.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:45 PM on November 29, 2012


"Water ice"? So Martians are actually from Philly, I take it?

Orrnyereg, you're thinking of "wooder ice."
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 5:31 PM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wit or witout extraterrestrial life?
posted by tonycpsu at 5:38 PM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Geez, abundant organic compounds? Water? Possible interaction zones around the edges? That's a pretty good recipe for life right there.

Isn't that "Earth-like" planet they found a few months ago also about the same distance from its sun as Mercury is from ours?

Maybe we're the sub-arctic freak show species, and all the real action is on the hot planets.
posted by Sara C. at 6:39 PM on November 29, 2012


I don't believe any of this.

We should send humans to verify.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Larry Niven finally gets the last laugh.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:18 PM on November 29, 2012


So if the surface is around 800 degrees Fahrenheit, but there are spots in the craters well below the freezing point of water, is it possible that somewhere halfway up on the slope it's 75 degrees and balmy?
posted by lstanley at 6:58 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I should learn how to search for previous posts before preparing new posts:
New observations by the MESSENGER spacecraft provide compelling support for the long-held hypothesis that Mercury harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials in its permanently shadowed polar craters. [...] According to Paige, the dark material is likely a mix of complex organic compounds delivered to Mercury by the impacts of comets and volatile-rich asteroids, the same objects that likely delivered water to the innermost planet.The organic material may have been darkened further by exposure to the harsh radiation at Mercury's surface, even in permanently shadowed areas.

These findings are presented in three papers published online today in Science Express.

Thermal Stability of Volatiles in the North Polar Region of Mercury

Bright and Dark Polar Deposits on Mercury: Evidence for Surface Volatiles

Evidence for Water Ice Near Mercury's North Pole from MESSENGER Neutron Spectrometer Measurements

Guardian writeup. Reuters writeup. AP. Newsy video.
posted by ersatz at 7:03 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I told my wife they found water ice on Mercury, she stung with the zinger "What flavor?"

I am so goddamned proud. She hates my puns.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:30 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


"So if the surface is around 800 degrees Fahrenheit, but there are spots in the craters well below the freezing point of water, is it possible that somewhere halfway up on the slope it's 75 degrees and balmy?"

This is just speculation, but I don't think it could work that way. If there was some kind of atmosphere on Mercury (there's a faint wisp of gas, but 1 nPa is barely anything) there might be more of a temperature spread. But since it's practically vacuum the shadows will be very hard edged, and the boundary between searing heat and terrible cold should be very thin.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:01 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kevin Street: This is just speculation, but I don't think it could work that way. If there was some kind of atmosphere on Mercury (there's a faint wisp of gas, but 1 nPa is barely anything) there might be more of a temperature spread. But since it's practically vacuum the shadows will be very hard edged, and the boundary between searing heat and terrible cold should be very thin.
That presumes that the boundary areas are excellent insulators at the shadow/light intersection. Granted, the ice is described as (presumably) being protected by an insulating layer of organics, but I wouldn't go so far as to assume there's a sharp cleavage in temperature.

Or, to put it another way: nonetheless, such a balmy layer must exist, and since Mercury has neither significant atmosphere nor rotation versus the Sun, the balmy layer is probably quite stable. Perfect for life to exist, if it has a chance to start (or take hold).
posted by IAmBroom at 2:38 PM on November 30, 2012


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