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Scientists might have understood the processes that led to the formation of glaciers at the cratered poles of Mercury. The team has modeled the processes to explain the phenomenon.
The scientists at the University of Maine in the US studied the accumulation and flow of ice on the planet closest to the Sun. They also studied how the glacial deposits on the closest and smallest planet of the solar system.
The findings, published in the journal Icarus, explains how the planet's ice accumulations might have changed over time. The ice deposits are estimated to be less than 50 million years old and up to 50 meters thick at some places. The changes in the size of the ice sheets serve as climatic indicators, the researchers said.
Analysis of Mercury's cold-based glaciers, situated in the craters close to the poles and can be located through Earth-based radar, was initiated and funded by NASA. It also studies the volatile deposits on the moon.
Unlike the moon, Mercury doesn't have an atmosphere that could lead to ice or snow that would eventually form glaciers at the poles. Simulations by the researchers show that planet's ice was deposited due to a water-rich comet or some other event, and has remained stable with no flow velocity.
The scientists reconstructed the shape of the ice sheets that were seen on Earth and Mars, with findings published in 2002 and 2008, respectively.
"We expect the deposits (on Mercury) are supply limited, and that they are basically stagnant unmoving deposits, reflecting the extreme efficiency of the cold-trapping mechanism" of the polar terrain, the researchers said.