Mercury, the innermost planet in our solar system, has become the focus of astrobiology. A surprising discovery may change the picture of the inhospitable planet.
Towson – Mercury, the planet closest to the sun in our solar system, was previously considered an unlikely candidate for life. It seems that its proximity to the sun and the high temperatures associated with it make it unsuitable. However, the latest discovery may spark astrobiology interest in this small planet: salty glaciers may exist on Mercury, and a certain environment may resemble conditions found in extreme regions of Earth.
In contrast to terrestrial glaciers, Mercury’s glaciers are salt flows that contain volatile substances such as water, carbon dioxide or nitrogen trapped deep within them. These salty glaciers have been subjected to asteroid impacts. They were discovered in craters on the planet by scientists using NASA’s now-defunct “Messenger” probe.
There are salty glaciers on Mercury that could make life possible
Alexis Rodriguez, lead author of the study, explains in A notice“Our results complement other recent research showing the presence of nitrogen glaciers on Pluto, meaning that glaciation extends from the hottest to the coldest regions of our solar system.” According to the researcher, such sites are “of central importance” to science. It was the study In the specialized magazine Planetary Science Journal published.
“These glaciers on Mercury, unlike those on Earth, come from deeply buried volatile layers exposed by asteroid impacts,” says co-author Brian Travis. “Our models strongly confirm that these glaciers were likely formed by salt influx, and that they contained volatiles for more than a billion years after they were emplaced.”
Are there favorable conditions for life on Mercury in an inhospitable world?
This aspect is fascinating for science, because on Earth, even in the most inhospitable areas, such as the Atacama Desert in Chile, there are habitable places, made possible by specific salt compounds. “This consideration makes us think about the possibility of the existence of subterranean regions on Mercury that may be more suitable for life than its rough surface,” highlights Rodriguez.
The scientist is convinced: “This pioneering discovery of glaciers on Mercury expands our understanding of the environmental parameters that can support life and adds an important dimension to our research in astrobiology.” Finally, planets similar to Mercury could have similar mechanisms and potentially harbor underground life. (unpaid bill)
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