Planet Core Remnants
December 27, 2012 in Science
Mercury: Evident Core Remains of a Planet
“Each of the terrestrial planets consists of a dense iron-rich core surrounded by a rocky mantle, composed largely of magnesium and iron silicates. The topmost layer of rock, the crust, formed from minerals with lower melting points than those in the underlying mantle, either during differentiation early in the planet’s history or by later volcanic or magmatic activity. ”
“In fact, Mercury’s density implies that at least 60% of the planet is a metal-rich core, a figure twice as great as for Earth, Venus, or Mars! To account for about 60% of the planet’s mass, the radius of Mercury’s core must be approximately 75% of the radius of the entire planet!”
“Mercury’s core occupies a large fraction of the planet, about 85% of the planetary radius, even larger than previous estimates. Because of the planet’s small size, at one time many scientists thought the interior should have cooled to the point that the core would be solid. However, subtle dynamical motions measured from Earth-based radar, combined with MESSENGER’s newly measured parameters of the gravity field and the characteristics of Mercury’s internal magnetic field that signify an active core dynamo, indicate that the planet’s core is at least partially liquid.”
“A planet’s topography can reveal fundamental information about its internal structure and its geological and thermal evolution. Ranging observations from MESSENGER’s Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) have provided the first-ever precise topographic model of the planet’s northern hemisphere and characterized slopes and surface roughness over a range of spatial scales. From MESSENGER’s eccentric, near-polar orbit, the MLA illuminates surface areas as wide as 15 to 100 meters (50 -325 feet), spaced about 400 meters apart (1,300 feet).
The spread in elevations is considerably smaller than those of Mars or the Moon. The most prominent feature is an extensive area of lowlands at high northern latitudes that hosts the volcanic northern plains. Within this lowland region is a broad topographic rise that formed after the volcanic plains were emplaced.” NASA.gov