American astrobiologists from the Planetary Institute in Arizona have discovered evidence of salt glaciers at Mercury’s poles. This suggests that there may be a potentially habitable zone deep beneath the surface of the solar system’s hottest planet. The study was published in the Planetary Science Journal (PJS). “Our findings complement other recent studies showing that Pluto has nitrogen glaciers. This means that the icing phenomenon extends from the hottest to the coldest edges of the solar system. ‘Impact on the planet’s landscape,’ said lead author Alexis Rodriguez.
Scientists say special salt compounds on Earth create habitable niches in some of the harshest environments, such as Chile’s Atacama Desert. The presence of salts on Mercury suggests that its interior may be more suitable for life than its sun-baked surface (which averages about 179 degrees Celsius). Researchers suspect that water created salt deposits at Mercury’s poles in the distant past. In this scenario, material ejected by volcanic activity temporarily created pools or shallow oceans on Earth in the form of liquid or supercritical water, a very dense and very salty vapor. The water then evaporated or seeped into the ground, leaving behind a thick layer consisting mainly of salt and clay minerals.