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NASA Finds Ice On Mercury, Planet Closest To The Sun

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In this handout from NASA, the surface of the planet Mercury is seen in an image taken by the Messenger spacecraft March 29, 2011 in space. (credit: NASA via Getty Images)

In this handout from NASA, the surface of the planet Mercury is seen in an image taken by the Messenger spacecraft March 29, 2011 in space. (credit: NASA via Getty Images)

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA spacecraft has confirmed there’s ice at Mercury’s north pole.

Scientists announced Thursday that the orbiting probe, Messenger, has found evidence of frozen water, even though Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. The ice is located in the permanently shadowed region of Mercury’s north pole. It’s thought to be at least one-and-a-half feet deep — and possibly as much as 65 feet deep.

Scientists say it’s likely Mercury’s south pole also has ice, though there are no data to support it. Messenger orbits much closer to the north pole than the south.

Radar measurements, for years, have suggested the presence of ice. Now scientists know for a fact.

Messenger is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. It was launched in 2004.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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