The smallest planet in our solar system, Mercury, is getting smaller. New research shows that heat from the planet’s core disappears through new cracks in the surface.
The results of the new research were published earlier this month Natural earth sciences. It is already known that Mercury has been contracting and cooling for thousands of years. It creates steep slopes on the planet, because the rocky crust warps due to internal contraction.
However, research shows that new cracks are still forming in the slopes. These pieces provide evidence that the slopes have moved within the past 300 million years.
“Our team has found unambiguous evidence that many cliffs are still moving in recent times, from a geological perspective, even if they were formed billions of years ago,” geologist David Rothery of the Open University in Britain said in an article. “Compare this to the wrinkles on an apple as it ages, although this is caused by dehydration. The mercury shrinks as it cools,” the researcher says.
It appears that the process is the same as that which took place on the moon, where measuring instruments recorded tremors due to contraction. There are no instruments on Mercury, but in 2025, the European space mission BepiColombo should enter orbit around the planet. This rocket was launched in October 2018 and is on its way to Mercury. The spacecraft will explore the planet’s surface.
As the smallest of the eight planets in our solar system, Mercury is barely larger than our Moon. The planet is closest to the Sun, at a distance of 46 to 70 million km.
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