A Caltech Library Service

Surface History of Mercury: Implications for Terrestrial Planets

Murray, Bruce C. and Strom, Robert G. and Trask, Newell J. and Gault, Donald E. (1975) Surface History of Mercury: Implications for Terrestrial Planets. Journal of Geophysical Research B, 80 (17). pp. 2508-2514. ISSN 0148-0227.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


A working hypothesis of Mercury's history is presented. We infer the surface of Mercury to record a sequence of events broadly similar to those recorded on the moon, implying similar histories of impact bombardment. The oldest terrain so n Mercury seem to be better preserved from modification by ejecta from subsequently formed impact basins because of higher surface gravity. The large lunarlike impact craters on Mercury can be interpreted as part of a distinct episode of bombardment which may have affected all the terrestrial planets about 4 b.y. ago. The light cratering accumulated on the surfaces of the Mercurian smooth plains is similar in diameter/frequency relationship to that of the lunar maria and of the oldest Martian plains units, consistent with recent interpretations of lunar and Martian flux histories by Wetherill(1974) and Soderblom et al. (1974). A straightforward interpretation of the Mercurian surface record thus supports recent order of magnitude increases in age estimates of many Martian features discovered by Mariner 9 but is not conclusive. The large core inferred for Mercury combined with the lack of recognizable evidence of past atmospheric activity is more easily understood in terms of radially heterogeneous accumulation than in terms of differentiation of a homogeneous planet. Early core cooling may be reflected by widespread evidence of crustal shortening. However, Mercury's surface seems little affected by any tectonic, atmospheric, or volcanic processes for the last 3 b.y. or so, raising questions concerning (1) the relationship of the origin of Mercury's magnetic field to that of earth's and (2) the primary cause of volcanic flooding, which may have begun, and ended, approximately synchronously on Mercury and the moon.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Additional Information:© 1975 American Geophysical Union. Manuscript Accepted: 5 Mar 1975; Manuscript Received: 14 Feb 1975. An earlier version of this manuscript was thoroughly and constructively reviewed by Clark Chapman and William Hartmann of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson. Arizona; by William Kaula of the University of California at Los Angeles; and by Don Wilhelms of the U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California. As a consequence the paper has been substantially rewritten to present our interpretations more clearly and to call attention more conspicuously to alternative possibilities. We feel that the resulting paper has been substantially improved through response to the reviewers' efforts and wish to express our appreciation for their efforts. Contribution 2579 of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125.
Subject Keywords:Planetology: Surfaces of planets; Mercury (Planet); Planetary Evolution; Planetary Surfaces; Spaceborne Photography; Cratering; Lunar Evolution; Mariner Venus-Mercury 1973; Solar System; Spacecraft Television; Volcanology
Other Numbering System:
Other Numbering System NameOther Numbering System ID
Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences2579
Issue or Number:17
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140410-162355670
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Murray, B. C., R. G. Strom, N. J. Trask, and D. E. Gault (1975), Surface history of Mercury: Implications for terrestrial planets, J. Geophys. Res., 80(17), 2508–2514, doi:10.1029/JB080i017p02508.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:44876
Deposited By: Aucoeur Ngo
Deposited On:14 Apr 2014 20:26
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 06:23

Repository Staff Only: item control page