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Scientists model the glaciers of Mercury



Credit: University of Maine

The processes that led to icing on the crater poles of Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, were modeled by a research team led by the University of Maine.

James Fastook, professor of computer science and climate research at UMaine, and James Head and Ariel Deutsch from Brown University studied the accumulation and flow of ice on Mercury and how the glacier deposits on the smallest planet are in our solar system on Earth and on Mars.

Their findings, published in the journal Icarus contribute to our understanding of how Mercury's accumulations of ice ̵

1; estimated at less than 50 million years and up to 50 years old – are meter-thick – may have changed over time. Changes in the ice sheets serve as climate indicators.

The analysis of Mercury's cold glaciers, which lie in the permanent shadowed craters near the poles and are visible through a radar on Earth, was funded by a project funded by NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Institute Virtual Evolution and Environment of exploration targets and is part of a study on volatile deposits on the moon.

Like the moon, Mercury does not have an atmosphere that produces snow or ice that could make out glaciers at the poles. Fastook team simulations suggest that the planet's ice has been deposited – probably the result of a water-rich comet or other impact event – and has remained stable with little or no flow. Despite the extreme temperature differences between the permanently shaded locations of the glaciers on Mercury and the sunlit adjacent areas.

One of the team's key scientific tools was the University of Maine's ice-sheet model (UMISM), developed by Fastook, funded by the National Science Foundation. Fastook used UMISM to reconstruct the shape and contours of past and present ice sheets on Earth and Mars. The results were published in 2002 and 2008 respectively.

"We expect the deposits (on Mercury) to be limited in availability and that they The researchers believe that the deposits are essentially stagnant immobile deposits, reflecting the extreme efficiency of the" cold trap mechanism " of the polar terrain.


Explore further:
Dawn maps Ceres crater where ice can accumulate

Further information:
James L. Fastook et al. Glaciation on Mercury: Accumulation and Flow of Ice in Perpetually Shaded, Circumferentially Polar Crater Interiors, Icarus (2018). DOI: 10.1016 / j.icarus.2018.07.004

Provided by:
University of Maine


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