What are some of the special features of Mercury?

What are some of the special features of Mercury?

Mercury's surface appears to be quite similar to that of the Moon at first glance, yet it differs in key ways. The MESSENGER mission discovered that Mercury has certain distinct landforms, smoother plains, and surface compositions (low in iron and rich in sulfur) that differ from those observed on the Moon. These differences are evidence that early Earth's inner planet may have formed conditions different from our neighbor!

Like the Moon, Mercury has two main types of terrain: highlands and lows. The highest peak is called Promontory, which rises about 4,900 feet above sea level. Most of the highlands are volcanic in origin. They range in height from under 500 feet to more than 4,900 feet.

The lowest points on Mercury are called lobes. There are two large lobes that extend for nearly 600 miles around the planet's middle. They are caused by the impact of material from deep within the planet's body.

Landslides are common on Mercury. As many as 20 million years ago, much of North America was covered by a huge ocean. Then, about 5 million years later, most of the ocean disappeared when part of Antarctica broke away and collided with North America. The impact destroyed most of what we now call Canada and almost all of Mexico. This event gave rise to the Appalachian Mountains on the eastern side of the continent.

Why is Mercury like our moon?

Mercury resembles Earth's moon in appearance. Mercury's surface, like our moon's, is riddled with craters created by space rock strikes. Mercury has a thin atmosphere of atoms that have been blasted off its surface by solar radiation. This atmosphere swiftly escapes into space and is renewed on a regular basis. The composition of this gas is unknown but it probably includes hydrogen, helium, and traces of other elements such as oxygen and carbon.

Like the Moon, Mercury has been altered by the action of water. The first evidence for this came from data collected by Mariner 10, which showed that some areas of both bodies are very similar in composition. These include many regions of Antarctica where data was received during several passes over the South Pole.

Another source of information about the presence of water on these two planets comes from their respective orbits. Mercury has an extremely eccentric orbit, which means that it travels between 593,000 km and 59 million km from the Sun. This means that it spends more than half of its time outside Earth's sphere of influence, which tells us that there must be water somewhere within its reach. On the other hand, the Moon's orbit is almost circular, which indicates that there is no significant amount of water trapped in its gravitational field.

What objects does mercury resemble in space?

Mercury's surface is similar to that of Earth's moon, with many impact craters caused by impacts with meteoroids and comets. The most prominent feature on Mercury's surface is Marius Hills, a group of large hills approximately 50 miles (80 km) across. They are formed from a mixture of rock types, including some containing a high percentage of iron.

Like the Moon, Mercury has a thin veneer of oxygen-rich material called regolith that covers its surface. However, because Mercury has no tectonic activity to produce deep fractures in its crust, most of the water present on Earth's surface remains in shallow reservoirs restricted to relatively few locations. One such location is the Cavity, a low-lying region about 500 kilometers wide where data from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft indicate that much of the water may be concentrated in an underground chamber filled with helium.

The rest of the world-wide water supply may be found in two large basins carved out by enormous floods that swept over Mercury millions of years ago. These basins, named Spoke Lakes after their resemblance to bicycle wheels, contain more water than all the other regions put together.

Mining on Mercury would require astronauts to fly through the cloud cover that surrounds the planet for protection from solar radiation.

Does Mercury have any craters?

Mercury, along with Venus, Earth, and Mars, is a rocky planet. It, like our Moon, has a solid surface covered with craters. However, due to its proximity to the Sun, most of Mercury's surface is hot enough to melt ice and rock, which later flows into U-shaped valleys or spreads out across the surface.

In fact, many people think that because of this reasonning, but also because of NASA's decisions not to send another mission to Mercury before 2011, there are no known active volcanoes on Mercury. However, in 2019, data from the MESSENGER spacecraft revealed evidence for volcanic activity after all! The new findings were published in Science on August 23, 2019.

The MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment GEochemistry and Ranging) spacecraft was launched in 2004 and arrived at Mercury in 2013. It is the first ever spacecraft to orbit around the planet and study it from close up.

Data from the MESSENGER spacecraft has revealed that there are two large regions on Mercury where materials are being ejected from beneath its surface into space. These sites may be volcanic vents!

What is the mercury surface made of?

The surface is sulfur-rich, approximately 20 times richer than the surfaces of Earth, the Moon, and Mars. Messenger discovered modest surface abundances of titanium and iron as well. Mercury appears to have developed in far more reducing settings—that is, in conditions where oxygen was scarcer—than other terrestrial planets. Its high metal content may have come from asteroid impacts.

Mercury's core likely has a low density similar to that of Earth's because its formation process probably did not produce much solid material by itself. Instead, it probably gained most of its mass through accretion with smaller bodies. The presence of a molten layer under its crust suggests that it still receives an input of heat from the Sun. However, due to its small size and distant location away from the Sun, most of this heat must travel all the way out to the cold outer edge of the planet before reaching its interior.

Like the Earth, Mercury has a magnetic field that is generated by its core. But because its core is so small, Mercury's magnetic field is much weaker than Earth's; scientists estimate that it averages about 4.8 milligauss (mg).

In addition to Earth and Mars, Mercury also shares some characteristics with the Moon. They both formed around stars like our Sun, were strongly influenced by their environments, and now contain large amounts of silicon dioxide (silica) on their surfaces.

Does Mercury have a dark side?

It has several impact craters. Mercury is virtually completely devoid of atmosphere. Mercury's dark side is that it is extremely cold since it has practically no atmosphere to hold in heat and keep the surface warm. Average temperatures on Mercury range from -180 degrees C to +50 degrees C.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University. Caption: In this photo taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft, sunlit crater Alphonsus appears in the foreground with Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system, in the background. The two features are about 250 miles (400 kilometers) apart.

Mercury has a very different kind of environment than Earth does. There is almost no water, for example; instead, there is a lot of metal-rich rock. There are many small impacts signs everywhere you look on the planet's surface. Some of them are more than 10 km across!

But the biggest threat to life as we know it on Mercury is not an impact event, but rather the intense radiation from the Sun. Every time Mercury gets within 0.5 astronomical units (about 55 million miles) of the Sun, its outermost layer is incinerated. The result is that most of the time it is hidden from view by the Sun's glare.

About Article Author

Sharri Morefield

Sharri Morefield is a unique individual with an eclectic background. She has been studying spirituality, astrology and mindfulness for over 10 years. Sharri is the founder of The Zodiac Connection which offers personalized guidance from her perspective as a Spiritual Astrologer & Mindfulness Coach. In addition to being an author who writes about how to find your way back home in life and love, she speaks at conferences and provides personal consultations on these topics.

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