NASA Finds Water and Organic Matter In Mercury

NASA has confirmed a surprising, counter-intuitive discovery. The burning hell known as Mercury — the closest planet to the sun — has water. Frozen water. Three new research papers, based on data obtained by the Messenger spacecraft, show undeniable evidence.

It's not just a little bit of water, but a huge amount: enough to cover Washington DC in ice. There is organic material too! NASA researchers believe that Mercury received this material in the same way as Earth did millions of years ago. And that material, they say, were the building blocks of life.

The results — obtained with three different instruments — were being presented in a press conference at NASA HQ in Washington DC. These findings confirm previous hypothesis and observations, but they are still surprising. Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and has no atmosphere. That means that it gets extremely hot and extremely cold: the planet's surface temperature ranges from 50K (-223C) to 700K (427C).

But thanks to its angle in relation to our home star, there are areas that are always in shadow. That's where the ice sleeps, protected from the sun's radiation by this shadow and dark organic deposits that insulate the water from the sun.

NASA scientists think that this "complex mix of organic materials" is similar to the material that eventually gave rise to life on Earth. And, as in Earth's case, scientists speculate that this material was probably brought to Mercury by comets colliding with the planet's surface.

The yellow inside the craters indicates the presence of water ice:

NASA scientists obtained this data using three methods: neutron spectrometry, near-infrared reflectance and thermal models obtained by Messenger. The results are unequivocal; according to the project director "there's no other compound" it could be. Every piece of data coincides.

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    Leads me to think.... If there is evidence of organic material in Mercury, Mars, Earth (obviously), a couple of moons on Jupiter and Saturn. The organic compounds predate to the early stages of our Solar System that planted their seeds on these planets and moons.

    Maybe we shouldn't be hunting for planets that could support life. We should perhaps focus on entire star-planet systems that are likely to have building blocks that can support life (maybe hydrocarbon gas clouds?). The search would be broadened and I'm assuming it will be easier to find evidence of organic compounds around a larger area than just a single star or exoplanet.

    Is this the "big announcement" that NASA was teasing a few days ago? I don't know if I should relax or not...

      Not time to relax just yet! The big announcement they've been teasing has something to do with a discovery on Mars

      i thought that was specifically to do with mars?

    Every year we find more planets in more systems, more chances for life and more places where the building blocks reside. It's clear that Drake's Equation is only going to tell us that more and more communicating civilizations are out there than we ever thought possible.

    Makes it kind of creepy that we've had no definitive contact yet though.

      Very creepy.

      Give the number of sentient species likely in the universe, why is there no signals bouncing around the place? Sure we might not be able to detect them all, but we should be able to detect SOME by now.

      One of the likely but scary answers to that, is that it is likely that some of the sentient beings out there are NOT friendly, and have a shoot first, ask questions later policy, and anyone that starts making noise is “nuked” before they become dangerous.

    Organic matter - meaning material derived from living organisms right?

    Oh look just saw the exact same description I came up with on Freedictionary haha:
    Organic: "Of, relating to, or derived from living organisms: organic matter."

    So the article states they've found evidence life in space or is this just semantics?

    Imagine if you were an intelligent race (assuming intelligence here) and you came across Earth and it's people... would you make contact?

    What this says to me is that Mercury cooled VERY quickly in those regions the ice deposits were found.

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