Press Trust of India
31 Dec 2018 14:37 IST
Scientists have modeled a process that leads to the formation of glaciers in the crater poles Mercury, the planet that is closest to Sun.
That researchers at the University of Maine in the US study the accumulation and flow of ice on Mercury, and how glacial deposits on the smallest planets in our solar system compare to those on Earth and Mars.
Findings, published in the Icarus journal, add to our understanding of how Mercury's ice accumulation – estimated to be less than 50 million years old and 50 meters thick – might have changed over time.
Changes in the ice sheet serve as climate indicators, the researchers said.
Analysis of Mercury's cold-based glacier, located in a permanently shaded crater near the poles and visible to Earth-based radars, is funded by NASA, and is part of a study of volatile deposits on the moon.
Like the moon, Mercury does not have an atmosphere that produces snow or ice which can cause polar glaciers.
Simulations by the team show that planetary ice is deposited – possibly the result of water-rich comets or other impact events – and remains stable, with little or no flow velocity.
Despite the extreme temperature differences between the locations of permanently shaded glaciers permanently on Mercury and the adjacent area illuminated by the Sun.
The researchers reconstructed the shape and outline of ice sheets past and present on Earth and Mars, with findings published in 2002 and 2008 respectively.
"We expect deposits (on Mercury) to be limited to supply, and basically immovable deposits are stagnant, reflecting the extreme efficiency of the cold trap mechanism" in the polar fields, the researchers said.