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MESSENGER Finds New Evidence that Water Ice Is Abundant at the Poles of Mercury

Date: November 29, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. EST


Observations by the MESSENGER spacecraft have provided compelling support for the 20-year old hypothesis that Mercury hosts abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials in its permanently shadowed polar craters. Three independent lines of evidence support this conclusion: the first measurements of excess hydrogen at Mercury's north pole with MESSENGER's Neutron Spectrometer, the first measurements of the reflectance of Mercury's polar deposits at near-infrared wavelengths with the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA), and the first detailed models of the surface and near-surface temperatures of Mercury's north polar regions that utilize the actual topography of Mercury's surface measured by MLA. These findings are presented in three papers published online today in Science Express.

Scientists discuss the development with media at NASA Headquarters in Washington on Nov. 29, 2012: watch


- James L. Green, Director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
- Sean C. Solomon, MESSENGER Principal Investigator, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades. N.Y.
- David J. Lawrence, MESSENGER Participating Scientist, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
- Gregory A. Neumann, Mercury Laser Altimeter Instrument Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
- David A. Paige, MESSENGER Participating Scientist, University of California, Los Angeles, Calif.


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Contact Information

Paulette W. Campbell
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Laurel, Maryland

Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC
Phone: 202.358.1726/3895

Event Information

The NASA MESSENGER News Conference will take place on Thursday, November 29, 2012, at 2 p.m. EST. Reporters may ask questions from participating NASA locations. The briefing also will be streamed live on NASA's Web site at: http://www.nasa.gov.

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