Colour mosaic of Mercury, from NASA

Colour mosaic of Mercury, from NASA

Full Story from Space dot Com & 2nd story >> Sci Tech Today

together with all relevant links.. (I Will be Updating this Page) >>

Space.Com story

By Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or @Spacedotcom

The discovery of huge amounts of water ice and possible organic compounds on the heat-blasted planet Mercury suggests that the raw materials necessary for life as we know it may be common throughout the solar system, researchers say.

Mercury likely harbors between 100 billion and 1 trillion metric tons of water ice in permanently shadowed areas near its poles, scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Messenger spacecraft announced Thursday (Nov. 29).

Life on sun-scorched Mercury remains an extreme long~shot, the researchers stressed, but the new results should still put a spring in the step of astrobiologists around the world.

“The more we examine the solar system, the more we realize it’s a soggy place,” Jim Green, the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said during a press conference today.

“And that’s really quite exciting, because that means the amount of water that we have here on Earth — that was not only inherent when it was originally formed but probably brought here — that water and other volatiles were brought to many other places in the solar system,” Green added. “So it really bodes well for us to continue on the exploration, following the water and its signs throughout the solar system.” {here are 2, more at the link>>} [Latest Mercury Photos from Messenger]

Topographic View of Northern Mercury
Topographic View of Northern Mercury
A Mercury Mosaic
A Mercury Mosaic

Organics, too?

The observations by Messenger, which has been orbiting Mercury since March 2011, provide compelling evidence that reflective patches first spotted near the planet’s poles by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico two decades ago are indeed water ice, researchers said.

In the coldest parts of Mercury — permanently shadowed regions where temperatures drop to perhaps minus 370 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 223 degress Celsius) — this ice can lie bare and exposed. But Messenger’s data also show that much more frozen water is found in slightly warmer areas, buried beneath a strange dark material that acts as an insulator.

This dark stuff is likely a mixture of complex organic compounds, the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it, researchers said during Thursday’s news conference.

“This organic material may be the same type of organic material that ultimately gave rise to life on Earth,” said Messenger participating scientist David Paige of UCLA.

Helping scientists read the book of life

Mercury probably acquired much of its water and organic material the same way Earth did, researchers said — via comet impacts and asteroid strikes. Ice and organics are common on the frigid bodies in the solar system’s outer reaches.

“There’s a lot of water out there, as there is a lot of water around other stars, but at substantial distance,” said Messenger principal investigator Sean Solomon, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

With its ultra-thin atmosphere and proximity to the sun, Mercury is probably not a good bet to host life as we know it. But finding ice and organics there should still inform the hunt for organisms beyond Earth and aid scientists’ quest to learn more about how life took root on our planet.

“The history of life begins with the delivery to some home object of water and of the building blocks, the organic building blocks, that must undergo some kind of chemistry, which we still don’t understand on our own planet,” Solomon said.

“And so Mercury is becoming an object of astrobiological interest, where it wasn’t much of one before,” Solomon added. “That’s not say to say that we expect to find any lifeforms — I don’t think anybody on this table does — but in terms of the book of life, there are some early chapters, and Mercury may indeed inform us about what’s in those chapters.”

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Size comparison of terrestrial planets (left t...
Size comparison of terrestrial planets (left to right): Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
NASA: Mercury
Image from Sci Tech News

Story from Sci Tech Today:  NASA: Closest Planet to Sun, Mercury, Harbors Ice 

By Marcia Dunn
November 30, 2012 12:17PM

It may be a scorching hot chunk of ice close to the sun, but NASA’s Mercury-orbiting probe, Messenger, says frozen water is located in regions of Mercury’s north pole that always are in shadows. The water almost certainly came from impacting comets, or possibly asteroids. Ice is found at the surface, as well as buried under a dark material.

 Just in time for Christmas, scientists have confirmed a vast amount of ice at the north pole — on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.The findings are from NASA’s Mercury-orbiting probe, Messenger, and the subject of three scientific papers released Thursday by the journal Science.The frozen water is located in regions of Mercury’s north pole that always are in shadows, essentially impact craters. It’s believed the south pole harbors ice as well, though there are no hard data Relevant Products/Services to support it. Messenger orbits much closer to the north pole than the south.

“If you add it all up, you have on the order of 100 billion to 1 trillion metric tons of ice,” said David Lawrence of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. “The uncertainty on that number is just how deep it goes.”

The ice is thought to be at least 1 1/2 feet (0.3 meters) deep — and possibly as much as 65 feet (20 meters) deep.

There’s enough polar ice at Mercury, in fact, to bury an area the size of Washington, D.C., by two to 2 1/2 miles (3.2 kilometers) deep, said Lawrence, the lead author of one of the papers.

“These are very exciting results,” he added at a news conference.

For two decades, radar measurements taken from Earth have suggested the presence of ice at Mercury’s poles. Now scientists know for sure, thanks to Messenger, the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

The water almost certainly came from impacting comets, or possibly asteroids. Ice is found at the surface, as well as buried under a dark material.

Messenger was launched in 2004 and went into orbit 1 1/2 years ago around Mercury, where temperatures reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (426 Celsius). NASA hopes to continue observations well into next year.

Columbia University’s Sean Solomon, principal scientist for Messenger, stressed that no one is suggesting that Mercury might hold evidence of life, given the presence of water. But the latest findings may help explain how water and other building blocks of life arrived elsewhere in the solar system, he said.

Mercury is becoming the subject of new interest “where it wasn’t much of one before,” Solomon said.

© 2012 Associated Press under contract with YellowBrix. All rights reserved.

More links at Sci Tech Today

Source:  Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington Image produced by: Johns Hopkins University
First high-resolution image of Mercury transmi...

First high-resolution image of Mercury transmitted by the MESSENGER spacecraft (in false color, 11 narrow-band color filters) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Mercury meets Jupiter

Mercury meets Jupiter (Photo credit: herbraab)

Full-color image of from first MESSENGER flyby

Full-color image of from first MESSENGER flyby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Year in Space, 2012 in Review


nasa pic

The Wildest Alien Planets of 2012

pretty cool

From massive bodies that fell just short of becoming stars to the tiniest solar systems known, 2012 has brought an array of intriguing exoplanets to light. And double-star systems that once seemed unlikely to host planets have produced a wealth of them this year.

The Year in Review

Video Published by NASA on Dec 17, 2012

Curiosity Has Landed, Flight of the Dragon, Antares Rolls and so much more…

In 2012, NASA continued to implement America‘s ambitious space exploration program, landing the most sophisticated rover on the surface of Mars, carrying out the first-ever commercial mission to the International Space Station and advancing the systems needed to send humans deeper into space.

Future Missions at NASA

Top Stories at Space Dot Com

NASA's DC-8 Flying Over the Weddell Sea

NASA’s DC-8 Flying Over the Weddell Sea (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

Earth’s Debris

a LEO256

The  graphics are computer generated images of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95% of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris, i.e., not functional satellites. The dots represent the current location of each item. The orbital debris dots are scaled according to the image size of the graphic to optimize their visibility and are not scaled to Earth. These images provide a good visualization of where the greatest orbital debris populations exist.

More images: Of Earths Orbital Debris, generated from different observation points.


a geminid meteor

The Geminid Meteor Shower is considered among many astronomers to be the most reliable of the annual meteor showers and in 2102 it will be even better. The Geminids are the last of the meteor showers in 2012 and peak on the evening of December 13/14. Full story

Sen’s Astronomy Link for stunning Images and don’t miss the current picture of Saturn here..

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Composite image showing the global distributio...

Composite image showing the global distribution of photosynthesis, including both oceanic phytoplankton and vegetation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Transit of Venus

Saturn composite image

This false-color composite image, constructed from data obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, shows Saturn’s rings and southern hemisphere. The composite image was made from 65 individual observations by Cassini’s visual and infrared mapping spectrometer in the near-infrared portion of the light spectrum on Nov. 1, 2008. The observations were each six minutes long. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

This Friday, Dec. 21, the spectrometer will be tracking the path of Venus across the face of the sun from its perch in the Saturn system. Earthlings saw such a transit earlier this year, from June 5 to 6. But the observation in December will be the first time a spacecraft has tracked a transit of a planet in our solar system from beyond Earth orbit.

Cassini will collect data on the molecules in Venus’s atmosphere as sunlight shines through it. But learning about Venus actually isn’t the point of the observation. Scientists actually want to use the occasion to test the VIMS instrument’s capacity for observing planets outside our solar system.

“Interest in infrared investigations of extrasolar planets has exploded in the years since Cassini launched, so we had no idea at the time that we’d ask VIMS to learn this new kind of trick,” said Phil Nicholson, the VIMS team member based at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., who is overseeing the transit observations. “But VIMS has worked so well at Saturn so far that we can start thinking about other things it can do.”

Cassini Instrument Learns New Tricks on Venus Tranit of Saturn – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Cassini Transit of Venus

December 20, 2012 Get the Full story at NASA
This graphic shows the path of Venus across the face of the sun on Dec. 21, 2012, as will be seen by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in the Saturn system. This will be the first time a spacecraft has tracked a transit of a planet in our solar system from beyond Earth orbit.

Various Articles of Interest: