Experts have found that planet Mercury had volcanic activity some 3.5 billion years ago. Intriguing new studies point out that Mercury used to have active volcanoes on its surface, but that all ended 3.5 billion years ago.
Mercury is a planet with a rocky surface and a metal core. The recent discovery helped astronomers understand what follows after planets cool down and contract.
Scientists from the North Carolina State University determined the volcanic activity on Mercury’s surface over time, by using NASA’s Messenger mission.
Astronomers did not have soil samples from Mercury to rely on for analysis. That’s why they took photographs of the surface and used mathematical models to estimate how old the volcanic deposits found on Mercury are.
The 3.5 billion years’ figure is very different from other planets in the solar system, including Earth. The differences between Earth and Mercury are huge. Mercury has only a slim rocky surface. Radioactive winds produced heats and caused the planet to lose its atmosphere a lot earlier compared to other planets.
There are just two types of volcanic activity- effusive and explosive. The first stage is when lava slowly pours out over the landscape, allowing for the new crust to form. Effusive volcanic activity leads to the birth of a planet. The explosive stage is a lot more violent and it makes lava erupt , with debris and ash particles spreading into the atmosphere.
Consequently, Mercury started to contract and the crust isolated the magma from the surface. These new findings have helped astronomers to tell the story of Mercury and have filled in some of the missing links. Scientists now know how the planet took shape and evolved, but also how planets cool and contract.
This information comes in the context of the planet alignment which is taking place tonight, tomorrow night and the day after that. Astronomy enthusiasts will be able to observe five planets after the sunset. They will be significantly more radiant and will glow against the night sky. If the sky is clear, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus will show up for this celestial date.
What’s your opinion on this article? Will you be on the look-out for the five-planet alignment? Post a comment below. Thanks.
Image Source – Wikipedia