This is a false color image of a mosaic of Mercury.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA.
Evolution of Mercury
Mercury, like the other planets, is believed to have formed in the
earliest stage of the
evolution of the solar
as dust came together to form even larger clumps and eventually
small planets or "planetesimals". Eventually, the gravitational field about the largest planetesimal "swept up" the remaining smaller
planetesimals, producing craters on the young planet's surface.
Because Mercury is so close to the Sun, many of the lightest elements
in the original solar dust cloud were probably not plentiful in the
innermost solar system. As a result, the material left to form the
planet was rich in metals and other elements and minerals that
solidify at high temperature. Under the influence of gravity, the
planet continued to condense, eventually melting much of the planet
and allowing separation of materials by their density. Sinking of
the heaviest elements to the center of the planet led to the
formation of an iron-rich molten core. Circulation of this molten
metal in convection cells is probably responsible for the magentic
Mariner 10 measured at
Mercury. The planet cooled quickly, because of its small size, and
it probably has a thick rocky layer or "lithosphere" extending hundreds
km into the planet from the surface - possibly even to the core. As
planet continued to cool, it shrunk slightly, causing compression of
surface and eventually thrust faults, where one portion of rock slips
to partially cover another. These thrust faults are probably
for the formation of
wrinkled ridges which were
observed by Mariner 10.
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