facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Mercury may have had ancient magma ocean

Feb. 21, 2013 at 7:04 PM   |   Comments

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The planet Mercury may have had a large, rolling ocean of magma very early in its history after its formation about 4.5 billion years ago, U.S. astronomers say.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have analyzed Mercury's current rocky surface using data from NASA's MESSENGER probe orbiting the planet to partially reconstruct its history over billions of years.

The chemical composition of rock features on the planet's surface suggests a large ocean of liquid magma may have once been present, an MIT release reported Thursday.

MESSENGER identified two distinct compositions of rocks on the planet's surface, scientists said, and experiments suggested only one phenomenon could explain the two compositions: a vast magma ocean that created two different layers of crystals, solidified, then eventually re-melted into magma that then erupted onto Mercury's surface.

"The thing that's really amazing on Mercury is, this didn't happen yesterday," MIT geology Professor Timothy Grove said. "The crust is probably more than 4 billion years old, so this magma ocean is a really ancient feature."

The study has been published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Recommended UPI Stories
Most Popular
1
Obama's plan calls for computer chip implants to help soldiers heal
2
Newfoundland fossil is earliest evidence of muscled animals
3
Tech industry All Stars developing 'Star Trek'-style communication badges
4
Latvia boasts world's first net for migrating bats
5
Wolf yawns are contagious
Trending News
Video
x
Feedback