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MESSENGER measures Mercury’s surface composition

Prof. Hauck co-authored a paper in Science detailing new discoveries on the composition, origin and evolution of Mercury.


A series of new papers published in the journal Science reveal new details about the planet Mercury as discovered by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. Prof. Steven A. Hauck, II, a MESSENGER Participating Scientist, co-authored a paper entitled “Radioactive Elements on Mercury’s Surface from MESSENGER: Implications for the Planet’s Formation and Evolution”. The paper provides the first measurements of the major, natural radioactive elements potassium, thorium, and uranium on Mercury. The results help rule out some of the proposed mechanisms for how Mercury formed, including the idea that it was once much larger and that rocks at the surface evaporated during an early, tempestuous stage of the Sun’s evolution. The measurements also provide crucial clues about the planet produced the record of volcanic activity seen at the surface and how the planet cooled over time.
For more information:
MESSENGER Mission
Time Magazine Article
Science Magazine Special Section

Page last modified: September 30, 2011