MERCURY - Elon University

MERCURY - Elon University

Mercury Intro to Astrophysics James Carroll

Elon University Craters Craters are formed when planetesimals

(comets or asteroids) collide with planets. Planetesimals typically have a speed of 40,000 to 250,000 km/hr. When planetesimals collide with a planet,

they vaporize solid rock creating a crater. THE MOON

MARS Crater Characteristics Craters are 10 times wider than the impacting

planetesimal. Craters are 10 20% deep as they are wide Approximately how deep would a crater caused by a planetesimal with a 10km

diameter be? 10 km x 10 = 100 km wide 15% x 100 km = 15 km deep

Caloris Basin Questions Why does Mercury have craters

while the Earth does not? How can we use the presence of craters to tell more about

Mercury? Geological Activity Looking at smaller planets we see:

Interior cools rapidly Tectonic and volcanic activity ceases after a billion years Molten flows onto surface and covers up craters.

With less geological activity the craters remain. THE MOON

Cliffs or Lobate Scarps Heat due to accretion and differentiation swelled the size of the core. As Mercury cooled, the core contracted an

estimated 20km. The shrinking core pulled the lithosphere with it. Cliffs or Lobate Scarps

Heat due to accretion and differentiation swelled the size of the core. As Mercury cooled, the core contracted an estimated 20km.

The shrinking core pulled the lithosphere with it. Early Theories The perihelion precession of Mercury could

not be defined by Newtonian Laws. Le Verrier (French Mathematician) He suggested the planet Vulcan caused this increased precession in Mercurys orbit.

Le Verrier gained many followers due to his work discovering Neptune. Early Theories

Einsteins theory of relativity provided accurate calculations for Mercurys precession. He proved Mercurys orbit aligned with the

curvature of space-time. Early Theories Giovanni Schiaparelli concluded Mercury was

tidally coupled to the Sun. In 1962, radio astronomers discovered 3-to-2 coupling.

Current Theories Mercurys magnetic field is 100 times less than Earths magnetic field. Remains confusion around Mercurys

magnetic field. Magnetic Field 3 Basic Requirements for Magnetic Field:

1. Electrically conducting fluid such as molten metal within the planet. 2. Occurrence of convection in that layer of fluid. 3. Moderately rapid rotation

Magnetic Field Recap The slow rotation would contradict existence of magnetic field.

Mercurys small size means core should have cooled. Therefore, there is no convecting molten to generate a field.

Current Theories Magnetic field is due to Mercurys abnormally large metal core. Frozen-in From a time when the planet

was warmer and rotated faster. Atmosphere Existing atmosphere from solar winds trapped

by magnetic field. Very little atmosphere on Mercury Weak Magnetic Field Hot temperatures due to proximity to Sun

With low escape velocity and high temperatures gases easily escape atmosphere

Temperatures Fluxuate from 825K on solar side to 176-60K in shadows. No gases to transport heat across the planet

Water ice at the poles because almost no sunlight reaches them.

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