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Ice discovered on Mercury — and lots of it

Closest planet to sun has ... ice?

Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has 100 billion to 1 trillion tons of water ice, scientists working with NASA's Messenger spacecraft said Thursday, enough to encase Washington in a frozen block 2 1/2 miles deep. The discovery is counterintuitive for a place that's among the hottest in the solar system, but near Mercury's poles, temperatures dip to as cold as minus 370. The findings appear on the website of the journal Science. The ice could be an intriguing science target for a future robotic lander or a resource for astronauts in the far future.

Polar melting speeding up

Fueled by global warming, polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting three times faster than in the 1990s, a scientific study says. So far, it has added only about a half-inch to rising sea levels. But the quicker pace, especially in Greenland, worries scientists. Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds in England, lead author of the study released Thursday by the journal Science, said the message for negotiators in Qatar working on an international agreement to fight global warming is, "It's very clear now that Greenland is a problem."

Pope exhibit coming to U.S.

Promoters of a traveling exhibit of artifacts and memorabilia of Pope John Paul II unveiled two items Thursday to be on display: the coat of arms of John Paul, made up of 21 different types of wood, and a portrait of him waving. The show, called "I Have Come to You Again," opens in Lubbock, Texas, in March, then goes to St. Louis and Washington.

Times wires

Ice discovered on Mercury — and lots of it 11/29/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:42pm]
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