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November 30 2012

Altimeter Built at Goddard Helped Identify Ice on Mercury


A Goddard-built instrument on NASA's MESSENGER mission provided one of three new lines of evidence that water ice exists near the north pole of Mercury. Most of the ice is covered by a thin layer of material that blankets and protects the ice, but in a few areas where sunlight never reaches, some ice lies exposed on the surface, the researchers announced Nov. 29 in three papers published by Science Express and at a NASA press conference.

The findings are based on reflectance measurements made by the spacecraft's laser altimeter and hydrogen concentrations from the neutron spectrometer as well as new computer modeling that explains how ice could persist for eons on the planet closest to the sun.

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