Scientists Produce A Model Of Mercury Glaciers

Posted: Dec 30 2018, 2:52am CST | by , Updated: Dec 30 2018, 3:05am CST, in Latest Science News

 

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Scientists Produce a Model of Mercury Glaciers
Credit: University of Maine

Study says that Mercury's ice deposits were likely the result of a water-rich comet impact.

Researchers from University of Maine have used a model to explain processes involved in the glaciation at the cratered poles of Mercury. The new model provides a better understanding of how the ice accumulated on Mercury and how those glacial deposits may have changed over time.

Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, is the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. This may sound surprising given that Mercury is so close to the Sun, but the planet harbors ice deposits mostly in large craters near the poles that are permanently shadowed from the sunlight. However, it is not known what is the origin of the ice. While Mercury doesn't have cold enough atmosphere to produce snow or ice at the poles, the deposits were likely the result of a water-rich comet or other impact event. The ice in the craters remained stable because Mercury's axis doesn't have much tilt. Therefore, its poles get little direct sunlight and the floors of some craters receive no direct sunlight at all.

“We investigate the dynamic properties of these solid water-ice deposits (glaciers) with the goal of constraining their movement, flow rates, possible deformation, and related structures and deposits. We find that, given the extremely cold conditions and the limited thickness of glaciers, even under the most favorable accumulation conditions, glaciation is cold-based, ice flow velocities are very low, with the exception of a sublimation lag deposit, glaciation is unlikely to leave any significant impact on the terrain.” Authors wrote in the study.

Our current understanding of Mercury's composition is largely based on NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft data. The only other spacecraft that has visited Mercury in the past is NASA's Mariner 10. This is due to the fact that Mercury is an extreme planet. In daytime, Mercury’s surface receives radiation six times higher than on Earth, causing temperatures to rise to as high as 430 degrees Celsius, before cooling down to even minus 180 degrees Celsius at night. Recently, Europe has launched its first mission to enter Mercury's orbit. The mission, named BepiColombo, will reach the planet approximately seven years and will study all aspects of Mercury, from the surface and composition of the planet to its magnetosphere.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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