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First rock from the sun turns out to have ice

Frozen material at the planet’s poles likely came from comet or asteroid impacts

The sun-scorched surface of Mercury may be the last place you’d expect to find ice. But NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has found the strongest evidence yet of frozen water — and carbon-rich material — on the planet closest to the sun.

While Mercury itself couldn’t support life, the findings provide clues about how water and other vital ingredients ended up on Earth, perhaps delivered by comets or asteroids. “Studying this stuff elsewhere in the solar system is really relevant for the origin of life,” says UCLA planetary scientist David Paige.

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