Volcanic Activity on Mercury Stopped 3.5 billion Years Ago
Mercury used to house active volcanoes. A recent study found out that the volcanic activities on the planet ended about 3.5 billion years ago.
The researchers from the North Carolina State University conducted a study and discovered that major volcanic activities on the planet have ended billion of years ago. The findings are integral for scientists to better understand the evolution of planets when they cool down and contract.
Experts say that there two kinds of volcanic activities namely effusive and explosive. Explosive volcanic activities are more devastating in nature, often causes a violent event that can result in ash and debris from the eruption while the effusive volcanism occurs when lava flows slowly over a landscape. The effusive volcanism is what experts believe to influence the planet formation process to form their crusts.
Like archeological evidence, the age of effusive volcanic deposits can give researchers a peek into the past where they can collect historical facts and geological information vital in their study. Today, effusive volcanism still happens on Earth while it has also ended in both Venus and Mars. For years, the duration of the volcanism on Mercury was unknown.
To arrive at their findings, researchers from North Carolina State University with assistant professor and planetary geologists Paul Byrne analyzed the data gathered by the NASA's MESSENGER mission. By analyzing the photographs of Mercury's surface, the researchers were able to determine when the volcanic activities on Mercury ended.
Due to the lack of physical samples from the planet or volcanic remnants, the researchers used radiometric dating where the number and size of the craters on the planet's surface are studied and compared to mathematical models to pinpoint when the volcanic activities halted on Mercury.
After a rigorous study, the researchers identified that the volcanic activities in mercury stopped about 3.5 billion years ago, a date distinct from that of Mars, Venus and of course, the Earth.
"There is a huge geological difference between Mercury and Earth, Mars or Venus," Paul Byrne assistant professor and planetary geologists said in a press release. "Mercury has a much smaller mantle, where radioactive decay produces heat, than those other planets, and so it lost its heat much earlier. As a result, Mercury began to contract, and the crust essentially sealed off any conduits by which magma could reach the surface," Byrne added.
The result of the study confirms the older predictions about the geologic activities on Mercury and adds a significant knowledge to the formation and evolution of the planet.