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Socio

NASA probe reveals organics, ice on Mercury

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http://www.chicagotr...0,5890155.story

Despite searing daytime temperatures, Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, has ice and frozen organic materials inside permanently shadowed craters in its north pole, NASA scientists said on Thursday.

Earth-based telescopes have been compiling evidence for ice on Mercury for 20 years, but the finding of organics was a surprise, say researchers with NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, the first probe to orbit Mercury.

Both ice and organic materials, which are similar to tar or coal, were believed to have been delivered millions of years ago by comets and asteroids crashing into the planet.

Sounds like Mars is not the only planet in our soloar system with suprises.

Edited by Socio
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I think there is life throughout the universe, some intelligent. I am surprised at organics on Mercury but life on other planets may not find our planets atmosphere, viruses or temperature tolerable.

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I think there is life throughout the universe, some intelligent. I am surprised at organics on Mercury but life on other planets may not find our planets atmosphere, viruses or temperature tolerable.

Organics shouldn't be a surprise really.

The problem is that people associate organics with life, that is not the case. Organic (in chemical terms) just means a molecule containing carbon. In Victorian times it was believed that all organic molecules were formed by living things, we now know that not to be the case, in fact the reverse is true; life arose from organic molecules.

The water at Mercury's pole was almost certainly delivered there by comets. We know that complex organic molecules form on comets as a result of ultraviolet radiation from the sun providing energy for reactions to occur. If the water was deposited by comets then it also follows that they would likely have deposited organic molecules too.

When further research is carried out on the water ice believed to be present at the lunar poles don't be surprised if organic molecules are discovered there too.

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Water is everywhere I guess except on Stars.

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Organics shouldn't be a surprise really.

The problem is that people associate organics with life, that is not the case. Organic (in chemical terms) just means a molecule containing carbon. In Victorian times it was believed that all organic molecules were formed by living things, we now know that not to be the case, in fact the reverse is true; life arose from organic molecules.

Makes me wonder about how they label "organic" food now... lol

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There may well be a few places on Mercury where the temperature can support life. Perhaps in a few decades they will send a surface probe there.

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Water is everywhere I guess except on Stars.

This fact seems to surprise people too, but it shouldn't.

Water is an extremely simple molecule. Given that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and oxygen the third most (second is helium which is extremely inert) then it follows that water should be one of the most common molecules in the universe.

Makes me wonder about how they label "organic" food now... lol

Different usage if the word "organic", nothing to do with chemistry at all.

There may well be a few places on Mercury where the temperature can support life. Perhaps in a few decades they will send a surface probe there.

Extraordinarily unlikely.

Mercury has even less chance of supporting life than the Moon (and the Moon's chances are as close to zero as makes no odds). The only areas where water can survive are the craters near the pole. These are in eternal darkness and the temperature will be far to cold for any kind of chemical reactions need for even the most basic life.

The rest of Mercury is either baked or frozen solid (depending on whether the Sun is above the horizon). The atmosphere (if you can call it that) is so tenuous that it can only be detected by very sensitive instruments and consists mostly of particles captured from the sun.

Although we know that life can survive in inhospitable places there are limits... too hot or too cold and the chemistry necessary just can not occur.

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Different usage if the word "organic", nothing to do with chemistry at all.

Was just a joke... :P

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Waspie... I remember as a kid in science class (back in the early 60's) there was talk that Mercury had a 'twilight zone'... a narrow band that seperated the day side from the night side - since Mercury was tidally locked to the sun, this area was thought to have tolerable temperatures in spots... Of course sci-fi got ahold of that and there were some entertaining tales told of life in the twilight zone...

Later of course I learned that this was not the case... sad really, a habitable twilight zone would have been pretty awesome...

Edited by Taun

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Look to IO for Life ! THats where it all is !

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Guess i'm a little naive. I took organic as meaning life, got really excited when I clicked on the link haha.

Thanks for clarifying Waspy.

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it's very interesting, isn't it. Water and oxygen potentially everywhere. Even if Mercury isn't exactly conducive, and even if Mars may not have enough water or atmosphere, then surely there's potential for all sorts of interesting discoveries in this, our very own solar system, before we even need to think about extrasolar planets. And to think that there are still people who smugly say "we know for a fact that there couldn't possibly be any life in our Solar system".

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Extraordinarily unlikely.

Mercury has even less chance of supporting life than the Moon (and the Moon's chances are as close to zero as makes no odds). The only areas where water can survive are the craters near the pole. These are in eternal darkness and the temperature will be far to cold for any kind of chemical reactions need for even the most basic life.

The rest of Mercury is either baked or frozen solid (depending on whether the Sun is above the horizon). The atmosphere (if you can call it that) is so tenuous that it can only be detected by very sensitive instruments and consists mostly of particles captured from the sun.

Although we know that life can survive in inhospitable places there are limits... too hot or too cold and the chemistry necessary just can not occur.

You're quite right, they give the temperature as 100K, but what about subsurface?

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Life is found all over the Planet Earth. From the deepest ocean bottom, to the highest peaks, from the desert to the frozen tundra, in pools of water deep within caves, where there is no light.

So, you have an extremely uninhabitable temperature on the surface of Mercury. And at the poles, we find ice. Is it possible that a 'happy medium' exists where life might thrive there? Somewhere, at some point it would seem to me that there is a location, maybe only a few square inches in area, where ice is actually water, where a very limited source of life could develop. Do you think it inconceivable that a 'micro-atmosphere' might exist where the ice melts and evaporates, condenses and refreezes, etc. Possibly in a cavern or crevice?

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