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Is life possible on the planet Mercury?  “Pioneering discovery” refers to this

Is life possible on the planet Mercury? “Pioneering discovery” refers to this

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Planet Mercury, image taken by NASA’s MESSENGER probe in 2011. © NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Mercury may provide subsurface niches where life is possible. This is what a new study has shown. This phenomenon is reminiscent of Earth.

TUCSON – The innermost planet in our solar system, Mercury, has not yet been particularly interesting in the search for potential life. It is very close to the sun and very warm. But now a research team has made a discovery that suddenly makes the small planet exciting for astrobiology: Mercury may have salty glaciers and an environment reminiscent of the harsh living conditions in regions of Earth.

On the other hand, the glaciers themselves are not at all reminiscent of glaciers on Earth: they are salt flows that trap volatile compounds such as water, carbon dioxide or nitrogen deep inside Mercury’s surface. These salty glaciers were released by asteroid impacts. It was discovered by searching craters on the planet with the help of the long-defunct “Messenger” space probe of the American space organization NASA.

Potential habitats on Mercury lie below the surface

Alexis Rodriguez, lead author of the study, explains in A notice“Our results complement other recent research showing the existence of nitrogen glaciers on Pluto, meaning that glaciation extends from the hottest to the coldest regions of our solar system.” for the world. the study It was published in the specialized journal Planetary Science Journal published.

“These glaciers on Mercury, which differ from those on Earth, come from deeply buried volatile layers exposed to asteroid impacts,” explains 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.”

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On Earth, there are habitable pockets in more rugged areas

This is an exciting aspect of research, because even in the most inhospitable regions on Earth, such as the Atacama Desert in Chile, there are habitable places made possible by certain 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,” Rodriguez asserts.

The researcher is convinced that “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 study of astrobiology.” Let underground. (unpaid bill)