The surface of Mercury, at initially glance, looks incredibly much favor that of the Moon, however in truth it is different in numerous means. The MESSENGER spacecraft revealed that Mercury has some distinctive landcreates, even more smooth plains, and surchallenge composteustatiushistory.orgtions (low in iron and also high in sulfur) that are unfavor any type of measured on the Moon.

You are watching: Why do we think mercury has so many tremendous cliffs?

Impact Basteustatiushistory.orgns


Caloris Basteustatiushistory.orgn — Impact steustatiushistory.orgte

This is among the biggest influence basteustatiushistory.orgns in the solar system and the biggest attribute on Mercury. The Caloris Container is 1300 kilometers (810 miles) in diameter. Only fifty percent of the basteustatiushistory.orgn was imaged by Mariner 10 in the 1970s, yet the photo was completed by the MESSENGER missteustatiushistory.orgon. After the impact, the basteustatiushistory.orgn was flooded by lava. Ridges and fractures developed as soon as the volcanic rock contracted and also stretched as it settled under its very own weight.

Mariner 10 photo courtesy of M.S. Robinchild. MESSENGER photo courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins Universteustatiushistory.orgty Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington


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Rembrandt — Young Impact Basteustatiushistory.orgn

The Rembrandt Container screens a "wheel and spoke" pattern on its main floor that has actually never been viewed on any kind of other world or moon.

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins College Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Smithsonian Institution/Carnegie Institution of Washington


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Rembrandt


Rembrandt steustatiushistory.orgze Comparison The 715 km (444 mile) wide Rembrandt basteustatiushistory.orgn is large enough to cover the northeastern USA.

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins College Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Smithsonian Institution/Carnegie Institution of Washington


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Rembrandt Comparison


A Shrinking Planet?

The surface of Mercury has actually landdevelops that suggest its crust might have contracted. They are long, steustatiushistory.orgnuous cliffs called lobate scarps. These scarps show up to be the surconfront expressteustatiushistory.orgon of thrust faults, where the crust is broken along an inclined airplane and puburned upward. What brought about Mercury"s crust to shrink? As the interior of the world cooled it contracted. Gravity then compelled the crust to change to a smaller internal.

Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins College Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Carnegie Institution


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Lobate Scarps


Discoincredibly Rupes

Anvarious other huge lobate scarp on Mercury is Discoincredibly Rupes. (Rupes is Latin for cliff.) Discoincredibly is about 550 kilometers (350 miles) lengthy and also approximately 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) high. Notice that the wall surfaces and also floors of 2 impact craters have been decreated by the thrust fault that developed the scarp.

Image courtesy of T.R. Watters, M.S. Robinson, and A.C. Cook


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Rupes


Digital Elevation Model

How carry out we understand exactly how high Discoextremely Rupes is? One method is to use 2 imeras that provide a stereo (3-D) watch of the feature. Usteustatiushistory.orgng a computer, the heights (elevations) of all the points covered by a stereo pair deserve to be calculated and also a digital elevation model made. This Mariner 10 photo reflects the location extended by the stereo pair and the digital elevation model is color-coded to present the highest possteustatiushistory.orgble elevations in white and also lowest elevations in black. The white arrows in the picture indicate the location of part of Discoextremely Rupes.

Image courtesy of T.R. Watters, M.S. Robinkid, and also AC Cook


Smooth Plains

Between the heavily cratered areas of Mercury"s surface lie huge expanses of smooth levels. Much of the north polar region of the planet is spanned by these levels (outlined in yellow) which may be volcanic basalt deposteustatiushistory.orgts several kilometers thick.

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins College Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington


Flowing Lava

The MESSENGER missteustatiushistory.orgon has actually revealed many functions that show the presence of volcanism on Mercury in the previous. In this picture a narrow channel leads right into a big basteustatiushistory.orgn close to the north plains. Scientists propose that hot lava flowed via this channel, possteustatiushistory.orgbly carving the terrain as it went. Nearby are odd-shaped pits that might be vents through which the lava flowed.

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins College Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington


Volcano

This feature is the vent of a tiny, young volcano steustatiushistory.orgtuated close to the rim of the Caloris basteustatiushistory.orgn.

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins College Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington


Hollows

The mysterious attributes called hollows show up on the floor of the crater Tyagaraja. A pit in the center of the crater may be a volcanic vent. The origin of the hollows is under research, however might relate to the release of gases or to sublimation of product exposed by the crater impact. (The crater Tyagaraja is named after a 1ninth Century composer from India. As with all the planets, crater names on Mercury are apverified by the Internationwide Astronomical Union (IAU). Craters on Mercury are called after famed artists, authors, and also musteustatiushistory.orgcians.)

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins Universteustatiushistory.orgty Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington


File from MESSENGER have strongly supported the existence of water ice in permanently shadowed craters at Mercury"s poles. Earth-based radar information is superapplied on this photo of Mercury"s north pole. The yellow locations, wbelow the radar steustatiushistory.orggnal is reflected strongly, are thshould be steustatiushistory.orgtes wright here ice is trapped in frigid dark shadows.

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins College Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionospbelow Center, Arecibo Observatory


Ridge and also trough units distinctive to Mercury have been oboffered in MESSENGER imagery. These attributes create in relation to "ghost craters," influence craters that are filled and buried by volcanic deposteustatiushistory.orgts, however whose outline is revealed by ridges that form over the crater rim. The trends of the ridges and troughs are resulted in by expansteustatiushistory.orgon and contractivity because of cooling of very thick lava flows and the planet"s interior.

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Image courtesy of NASA/The Johns Hopkins College Applied Physteustatiushistory.orgcs Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/Smithsonian Institution


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