Observed ices in the Solar System

By: , and 
Edited by: Murthy Gudipati and Julie C. Castillo-Rogez



Ices have been detected and mapped on the Earth and all planets and/or their satellites further from the sun. Water ice is the most common frozen volatile observed and is also unambiguously detected or inferred in every planet and/or their moon(s) except Venus. Carbon dioxide is also extensively found in all systems beyond the Earth except Pluto although it sometimes appears to be trapped rather than as an ice on some objects. The largest deposits of carbon dioxide ice is on Mars. Sulfur dioxide ice is found in the Jupiter system. Nitrogen and methane ices are common beyond the Uranian system. Saturn’s moon Titan probably has the most complex active chemistry involving ices, with benzene (C6H6) and many tentative or inferred compounds including ices of Cyanoacetylene (HC3N), Toluene (C7H8), Cyanogen (C2N2), Acetonitrile (CH3CN), H2O, CO2, and NH3. Confirming compounds on Titan is hampered by its thick smoggy atmosphere. Ammonia was predicted on many icy moons but is notably absent among the definitively detected ices with the possible exception of Enceladus. Comets, storehouses of many compounds that could exist as ices in their nuclei, have only had small amounts of water ice definitively detected on their surfaces. Only one asteroid has had a direct detection of surface water ice, although its presence can be inferred in others. This chapter reviews some of the properties of ices that lead to their detection, and surveys the ices that have been observed on solid surfaces throughout the Solar System.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Observed ices in the Solar System
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-3076-6_1
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 44 p.
First page 3
Last page 46