Mercury is shrinking and ‘wrinkling’, study says

A scientific study suggests that Mercury is shrinking in size and, as it does, it is also wrinkling. According to David Rothery, professor of planetary geosciences at Open Unity in the United Kingdom, this is because the planet is losing heat, which is shrinking its molten metal interior.

The study

Already in the past, scientists understood that Mercury was reducing its size to the point of being about 14 kilometers thinner. What’s more, the first data that supported this theory came from NASA’s Mariner 10 mission that flew over the planet in 1974.

Now, in a study published in Nature Geoscience, data reveals that kilometer-high slopes known as “escarpments” are forming across the planet.

“Because Mercury’s interior is shrinking, its surface (crust) has less and less area to cover. It responds to this by developing ‘thrust faults’, where an area of ​​land is pushed onto adjacent land,” says Rothery.

“This is like the wrinkles that form on an apple as it ages, except that an apple shrinks because it is drying, while Mercury shrinks due to thermal contraction of its interior.”

But scientists have detailed that the scarps, which are about 3 billion years old, are still suffering from this problem. And the argument for this is based on the so-called grabens.

The doctoral student who helped in the study, Ben Man, found the existence of grabens or grabens where the land had collapsed between two faults and a stretch signal.

“The stretching may seem surprising on Mercury, where the crust is generally compressing,” Rothery explained, “but man realized that these grabens would occur if a piece of thrusted crust had folded as it was pushed over adjacent terrain. .

“If you try, if you fold a piece of toast, it might break in a similar way.”