12-2-12 Ice – No Maiden










Yet another stunning scientific discovery overlooked as all eyes are focused on the Roman arena our world has become. For a moment, tear yourself away from the blood and gore, the hypocrisy, the meanness of it all.  Look eastward.  There, low in the winter’s sky, moments before dawn, Mercury beckons with a shy glow.

Small, airless, sun-blasted, Mercury was the last place one would look for water, but there it is. Water ice and organic molecules on this smallest planet in our solar system, and the one closest to the sun. On NASA’s Messenger picture of Mercury’s north pole, the red areas are those permanently shadowed; the yellow are polar deposits.

No, we haven’t found life on Mercury, no Ice Maiden. There are organic chemicals, but researchers believe they are tar-like, not the result of the decay of once living creatures. But, the discovery opens the heavens to a view 4 billion years old. If Mercury’s barely tilted axis has not changed, the ice may have been present at the beginning of the solar system. Think of it! A truly primordial sight. No music of the spheres yet. Still, we cannot gaze upward now without an acknowledgement that we know a bit more than we did yesterday.

Author Stuart Clark writes in the London Guardian:

The only other place that such ancient ice is found is in comets. That’s where the European Space Agency’s comet-chasing Rosetta spacecraft comes in. Currently en route to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, it will rendezvous with the icy remnant of the primordial solar system in 2014. Falling in step with the comet out beyond Jupiter’s orbit, Rosetta will follow the comet for more than a year as it falls towards the sun.

For those of us who see life as a journey, and not as a destination, science is a thrilling, if often, alarming, adventure. Science cannot stand still. It moves and changes, throwing up new visions, forcing us to rethink our complacencies, denying us the comforts of yesterday. It is a mistake for us to confuse scientific knowledge with its shabby commercial knockoffs. Science insists we be bold. It will not let us rest; it cracks open reluctant minds. Look. Over here.


No responses yet

Leave a Reply