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How can there be water ice on Mercury, which is right next to the Sun?

A 68-mile-diameter crater in the north polar region of Mercury which has been shown to harbor water ice.

A 68-mile-diameter crater in the north polar region of Mercury which has been shown to harbor water ice. // AP/NASA

Curiosity may not have found organic matter -- YET -- on Mars. But NASA has made, this afternoon,another big announcement: ice. Yes! Water ice. On Mercury.

The newly observed ice is located in the shadowed region of Mercury's north pole, and is thought to be, the AP reports, somewhere between 1.5 feet and 65 feet deep. The discovery, made by the orbiting probe Messenger, confirms "decades of suspicion" -- based on radar measurements -- about the presence of ice on the planet.

But wait. If you recall the order of the planets -- the fact that My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pies, except that now she has rescinded the pies -- you might be thinking, "That's weird. Mercury is the closest planet to the sun." Which means, basically, that NASA has discovered thatthe planet that receives more sunlight per square meter than any other in the solar system -- the planet that bears the brunt of the sun's energy more directly than any other -- houses ice. Which is ... counterintuitive.

Read more at The Atlantic

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