As some of you are already aware, there have been rumors for the past month that NASA was preparing to announce something big. Much of the rumor focused on the Curiosity probe on Mars, with speculation that it had discovered organic molecules or some form of life on the red planet. Meanwhile NASA kept the information to themselves, as they wanted to confirm it before releasing any results.

Today the results were released, and it wasn't what anyone was expecting. It wasn't the Curiosity probe, it was the Messenger probe. They have found ice and some organic matter on the hottest planet, Mercury. 

For those of you who have forgotten high school science class, Mercury is the small planet orbiting closest to the sun, and it is extremely hot, reaching hundreds of degrees Centigrade at some point. It shouldn't have ice on it. But it does.

Both findings would seem to support the theory that icy comets bombard the planet Mercury (and other planets) and bring organic molecules with them. (BTW, in the scientific world organic does not necessarily mean living or biological. Organic molecules can include substance like coal or tar as well).  If this is the true explanation, it could indicate more about the spread of organic materials among the planets, and could alter our views of how life began on Earth.

The other possibility is that, as these substance were found in the planetary poles which never face the sun and therefore never heat up, that the icy and tar blend formed when the solar system was forming around four or five billion years ago. In that case, this polar ice would be primordial and provide new information on the formation of planets and solar systems. 

And either explanation makes it a most fascinating discovery!

PS: I should clarify that there are still rumors that Curiosity has made a discovery, and the team working with it have scheduled a press release for Monday. So this is not necessarily the big discovery everyone is talking about, but it is still an important result.