Areas of permanent shadow in Mercury's south polar region ascertained by MESSENGER orbital imaging



[1] Radar-bright features near Mercury's poles have been postulated to be deposits of water ice trapped in cold, permanently shadowed interiors of impact craters. From its orbit about Mercury, MESSENGER repeatedly imaged the planet's south polar region over one Mercury solar day, providing a complete view of the terrain near the south pole and enabling the identification of areas of permanent shadow larger in horizontal extent than approximately 4 km. In Mercury's south polar region, all radar-bright features correspond to areas of permanent shadow. Application of previous thermal models suggests that the radar-bright deposits in Mercury's south polar cold traps are in locations consistent with a composition dominated by water ice provided that some manner of insulation, such as a thin layer of regolith, covers many of the deposits.