Fire And Ice

Frozen water has been found on the searing surface of Mercury

THE PLANET MERCURY IS TRULY A HELLISH PLACE: IT is one-third as far from the sun as Earth, and its daytime temperatures can reach 430 degreesC (800 degreesF). The last thing scientists expected to find there was ice. But that is just what a new radar study of Mercury, reported in Science, has detected. Planetary scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and at Caltech aimed powerful radar beams at both of the planet's poles; the return signals bore the telltale signs of having bounced off a frozen surface. Like Earth and Mars, Mercury appears to have polar ice caps.

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