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BEACON TRANSCRIPT – It seems that NASA’s on a winning streak, according to the latest study involving Mercury. After posting the pictures depicting the farthest galaxy ever discovered, the US space agency recently explained why Mercury’s surface is so dark. Thanks to the MESSENGER mission, NASA shed some light over Mercury’s shady surface.
The Messenger Mission, which is short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging Mission, started back in 2011. From 2011 till 2015, the floating space lab has performed several flybys around Mercury, and, during its closest approach to the planet’s surface, it was able to detect a high level of low-energy neutrons.
Well, that’s not very exciting, isn’t it? But wait, there’s more to this than just another number.
As we know, earlier theories regarding Mercury’s surface explained that the dark crust was formed after several ancient carbon-rich comets impacted the planetary surface.
But, thanks to MESSENGER’s reading, the scientists from NASA have discovered that the planet’s darkish color was not formed after a comet hit the planet, but due to graphite deposits found below the surface of Mercury.
Larry Nittler, one of the think-tanks involved in the project said that the previous theories according to which the planet’s shadow tint can be attributed to an external event were mostly based on pen and paper projections and computer simulations.
MESSENGER’s latest discovery shows that the dark color of the planet can be attributed to the presence of large graphite deposits found deep below the surface. Using an apparatus called a neutron spectrometer, the researcher picked up a high concentration of low-energy neutrons when the craft passed over large deposits of carbon.
According to the theories regarding Mercury’s genesis and development, a long time ago and in our galaxy, Mercy was covered by oceans of lava. Naturally, the planet’s exterior temperature was pretty high. Over the time, the lava began to cool down, and the minerals began to solidify and descend below the crust.
However, according to the recent theory, not all minerals managed to find their way underground. Graphite, for instance, floated just above the surface, and in time, created the surface of Mercury.
As we’ve stated before, previous theories regarding the planet’s color were saying that during Mercury’s first years of life, a comet impacted its surface. Supposedly, the impact was so violent that it pushed the carbon to the surface.
Well, this is now ancient history, as direct observation demonstration that Mercury’s the one which chose its watermark.
Of course, the MESSENGER Mission is far from over. The scientists working on the project are expecting to uncover more facts about the planet.