After 20 years of wondering, scientists have finally confirmed the presence of frozen water near Mercury's north pole and, as a bonus, also saw evidence of organic compounds.
Scientists from NASA's Messenger probe team revealed that they had discovered water ice on the poles of Mercury. According to Messenger's principal investigator, Sean C. Solomon, there's enough ice to cover an area the size of Washington, DC and reach 2.5 miles beneath the surface.
"For more than 20 years the jury has been deliberating on whether the planet closest to the Sun hosts abundant water ice in its permanently shadowed polar regions. [Messenger] has now supplied a unanimous affirmative verdict." Sean Solomon, principal investigator of the Messenger mission
While the water discovery was no huge surprise, scientists were surprised to find evidence of organic matter. The scans showed that the ice was mixed with a dark, volatile material they believe harbors organic compounds. However, it will take more research to confirm the discovery. Although it doesn't necessarily lead to it, carbon-based organic matter is required for life.
Since temperatures reach up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, ice seems an unlikely tenant on the surface of Mercury. At the poles, however, temperatures can dip as low as -280 degrees, and scientists say that it's temperate a few feet below the surface elsewhere on Mercury.
If you don't have a Circa account yet, download and sign up using the free app for iPhone.