Geologists identify the mineralogy of Mercury
For the first time, geologists from the University of Liege have been able to determine the nature of the minerals present on the surface of Mercury - one of the four telluric planets in our solar system. Their study, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, is based on experiments conducted in laboratory at extreme temperatures, to reconstitute the conditions observed during the crystallization of magmas. The mineralogy of rocks on the surface of the planets is an excellent indicator of the origin and evolution of the planets since the origins of the solar system.
|This enhanced colour image of Mercury taken by MESSENGER indicates chemical and mineralogical properties |
of rocks [Credit: NASA/The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory]
Their conclusions help us to better understand the mineralogy of Mercury, which remained an enigma, and more globally the evolution of this planet. The crust of Mercury is of magmatic origin, produced by lava from the mantle between 4.2 and 3.5 billion years ago. In their study, the two researchers were able to define different regions in the northern hemisphere of Mercury, each characterized by a specific mineralogy.
Their major discovery is the link between the age of these regions and the mineralogy of the lava on their surface, which demonstrates the major role of the thermal evolution of Mercury on its volcanic history. The magmatic activity on Mercury was interrupted early 3.5 billion years ago, making it the telluric planet that cooled the most rapidly in our solar system.
Source: University de Liege [December 21, 2016]