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Mercury continue to bewilder NASA despite Messenger mission updates about the planet

For decades, NASA scientists have been intrigued by strange hollows on Mercury's surface, a perplexing puzzle given the planet's harsh conditions.

By: HT TECH
Updated on: Nov 27 2023, 22:04 IST
Mysterious hollows on Mercury's surface, like those seen in this image from MESSENGER's mission, continue to baffle scientists. Despite recent data and research, their origin remains one of the planet's enduring enigmas. (representative image) (pixabay)
Mysterious hollows on Mercury's surface, like those seen in this image from MESSENGER's mission, continue to baffle scientists. Despite recent data and research, their origin remains one of the planet's enduring enigmas. (representative image) (pixabay)

Mercury may not be stealing the spotlight like Mars so often does, but the planet is as intriguing as the Red Planet. The surface of Mercury is marked by mysterious hollows, which have puzzled scientists for decades. These depressions vary in size from 60 feet to over a mile across and can be up to 120 feet deep, with no known origin. The planet's lack of atmosphere means that wind and water couldn't have created these hollows, leaving scientists searching for alternative explanations. And this is despite the fact that NASA had sent its Mercury Messenger spacecraft to study the planet thoroughly.

Some facts about Mercury

According to NASA, Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and is small and rocky. Notably, it does not have an atmosphere. Also, unlike Earth's 24-hour day, a day on Mercury lasts 59 Earth days and an year is just 88 Earth days long.

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Messenger Mission

The Mercury Messenger mission, launched by NASA, significantly contributed to our understanding of these hollows. It provided high-resolution images and data, revealing their unique features and characteristics.

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These Mercury hollows are distinct from most other surface features and are among the youngest and brightest elements on Mercury, with an estimated age of about 100,000 years.

One theory suggests that central mounds or mountains inside impact craters, known as "peak rings," might be related to the hollow formation. These peaks could result from material thrust upward during the impact.

The intense heat, radiation, and solar wind that Mercury endures may contribute to the creation of these hollows. Certain minerals could vaporize under these extreme conditions, making the rock crumble and erode, forming the depressions.

Another hypothesis proposes that dark areas on Mercury's surface, likely graphite deposits, are disintegrated by solar wind, leaving behind hollowed regions of brighter, blue-tinged materials.

Unlike similar depressions found in Mars' carbon dioxide ice, Mercury's hollows are in rock and often exhibit bright interiors and halos.

While MESSENGER spacecraft has concluded its mission and crashed into Mercury, scientists are still analyzing the wealth of data it collected, hoping to uncover more insights about these enigmatic hollows.

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First Published Date: 27 Nov, 22:04 IST
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