Thermal Stability of Volatiles in the North Polar Region of Mercury

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Science  18 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6117, pp. 300-303
DOI: 10.1126/science.1231106

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Thermal models for the north polar region of Mercury, calculated from topographic measurements made by the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, show that the spatial distribution of regions of high radar backscatter is well matched by the predicted distribution of thermally stable water ice. MESSENGER measurements of near-infrared surface reflectance indicate bright surfaces in the coldest areas where water ice is predicted to be stable at the surface, and dark surfaces within and surrounding warmer areas where water ice is predicted to be stable only in the near subsurface. We propose that the dark surface layer is a sublimation lag deposit that may be rich in impact-derived organic material.

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