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NASA: Closest planet to sun harbors ice

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Reuters | NASA handout
A radar image of Mercury's north polar region acquired by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is shown superposed on a mosaic of Mercury MESSENGER images of the same area in this NASA handout photo released November 29, 2012. Shown in red are areas of Mercury'’s north polar region that are in shadow in all images acquired by MESSENGER to date. Since their discovery in 1992, these polar deposits have been hypothesized to consist of water ice trapped in permanently shadowed areas near Mercury’'s north and south poles, but other explanations for the polar deposits have also been suggested.

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 3:22 p.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A NASA spacecraft has confirmed there's ice at Mercury's north pole.

Scientists announced Thursday that the orbiting probe, Messenger, has found evidence of frozen water, even though Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. The ice is located in the permanently shadowed region of Mercury's north pole. It's thought to be at least one-and-a-half feet deep - and possibly as much as 65 feet deep.

Scientists say it's likely Mercury's south pole also has ice, though there are no data to support it. Messenger orbits much closer to the north pole than the south.

Radar measurements, for years, have suggested the presence of ice. Now scientists know for a fact.

Messenger is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. It was launched in 2004.

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