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Jul 06, 2016 06:34 AM EDT

NASA Funded MIT Research Team Finds Out Co-Relations Of Mercury To Rare Meteorite; Traces Billion Year-Origin

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NASA-funded research team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) traces evidence that shows planet has cooled dramatically in half a billion years leading to the discovery of Mercury’s origin.
NASA-funded research team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) traces evidence that shows planet has cooled dramatically in half a billion years leading to the discovery of Mercury’s origin.
(Photo : Matt Stroshane / Getty Images)

NASA's archive for planetary history and space exploration accounts showed that at around 4.6 billion years ago, the universe was a chaos of disintegrating gas and whirling debris. This collision and frequent clumping together of larger and more massive meteors is believed to start the formation of some planets, most particularly Mercury from its fiery spheres of molten material that probably cooled over millions of years.

Now, NASA-funded research team of geologists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was able to trace part of Mercury's cooling history and established that in between 4.2 and 3.7 billion years ago, its interior temperatures fell by 240 degrees Celsius (464 degrees Fahrenheit) as soon as the planet formed.

NASA-MIT team also concluded on the basis of the rapid cooling rate and the lava deposits opus on Mercury's exterior that the planet probably has an enstatite chondrite composition, an extremely rare type of meteorite.

The Cecil, Timothy Grove and Ida Green Professor of Geology in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, said new information on Mercury's history is of interest for outlining Earth origin and early formation

Timothy Grove added that with 4.5 billion years of planetary evolution and due to Earth's such a dynamic interior and because of the water present on it or due to volcanism, its past was wiped out. On planets like Mercury, premature volcanism is more dramatic and when they cooled down there would be no more volcanic processes to annihilate the early history. With this, we will actually have an estimate of how fast the interior cooled throughout the early part of a planet's past account.

Grove and the rest of the NASA-MIT team, including researchers from the University of Liége, in Belgium; the University of Hanover and the University of Bayreuth, both in Germany, have published their findings in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

For their examination, the team applied data collected by the MESSENGER spacecraft of NASA. The MErcury Surface, Geochemistry, Space ENvironment and Ranging (MESSENGER) probe orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015, to collect measurements of the planet's chemical composition. During its mission, with each flyby, MESSENGER captured images that exposed kilometer-thick lava deposits covering the entire Mercury's surface.

Find out more from this MIT article or refer to Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

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