How does ice exist on Mercury?
Today’s Video of the Day from Georgia Tech provides new insight into the conditions that make it possible for ice to exist on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.
Solar winds scatter charged particles, including protons, across Mercury’s surface. According to the study, extreme heat from the sun boosts the activity of these protons, triggering the formation of H2O. Some of the water molecules make their way into polar craters, where they are transformed into permanent ice.
The research suggests that chemical reactions are responsible for up to ten percent of Mercury’s ice, while the rest is likely the result of asteroid collisions.
“This is not some strange, out of left field idea. The basic chemical mechanism has been observed dozens of times in studies since the late 1960s,” said study first author Brant Jones. “But that was on well-defined surfaces. Applying that chemistry to complicated surfaces like those on a planet is groundbreaking research.”
The research is published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Video Credit: Georgia Tech