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The Geophysics of Mercury: Current Status and Anticipated Insights from the MESSENGER Mission

Zuber, Maria T. and Aharonson, Oded and Aurnou, Jonathan M. and Cheng, Andrew F. and Hauck, Steven A., II and Heimpel, Moritz H. and Neumann, Gregory A. and Peale, Stanton J. and Phillips, Roger J. and Smith, David E. and Solomon, Sean C. and Stanley, Sabine (2007) The Geophysics of Mercury: Current Status and Anticipated Insights from the MESSENGER Mission. Space Science Reviews, 131 (1-4). pp. 105-132. ISSN 0038-6308. doi:10.1007/s11214-007-9265-4.

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Current geophysical knowledge of the planet Mercury is based upon observations from ground-based astronomy and flybys of the Mariner 10 spacecraft, along with theoretical and computational studies. Mercury has the highest uncompressed density of the terrestrial planets and by implication has a metallic core with a radius approximately 75% of the planetary radius. Mercury’s spin rate is stably locked at 1.5 times the orbital mean motion. Capture into this state is the natural result of tidal evolution if this is the only dissipative process affecting the spin, but the capture probability is enhanced if Mercury’s core were molten at the time of capture. The discovery of Mercury’s magnetic field by Mariner 10 suggests the possibility that the core is partially molten to the present, a result that is surprising given the planet’s size and a surface crater density indicative of early cessation of significant volcanic activity. A present-day liquid outer core within Mercury would require either a core sulfur content of at least several weight percent or an unusual history of heat loss from the planet’s core and silicate fraction. A crustal remanent contribution to Mercury’s observed magnetic field cannot be ruled out on the basis of current knowledge. Measurements from the MESSENGER orbiter, in combination with continued ground-based observations, hold the promise of setting on a firmer basis our understanding of the structure and evolution of Mercury’s interior and the relationship of that evolution to the planet’s geological history.

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URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access
Aharonson, Oded0000-0001-9930-2495
Stanley, Sabine0000-0002-4039-2809
Additional Information:© 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B. V. Received: 24 July 2006; Accepted: 10 August 2007; Published online: 18 October 2007. The MESSENGER mission is supported by NASA’s Discovery Program through contract NASW-00002 with the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
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Subject Keywords:Mercury; MESSENGER; Core; Rotational state; Magnetic dynamos; Thermal history
Issue or Number:1-4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130419-154608834
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Official Citation:Zuber, M.T., Aharonson, O., Aurnou, J.M. et al. Space Sci Rev (2007) 131: 105. doi:10.1007/s11214-007-9265-4
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:38049
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:23 Apr 2013 15:41
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:33

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