Thursday, 21st January 2021 (19:45 - 22:00)
Venue: Virtual Meeting
Mercury has been recognised as a “wanderer” of the night sky since Babylonian times, but its proximity to the Sun has made it a difficult body to study. The situation has changed dramatically since we’ve had the spectacular data from the recent MESSENGER mission, which has revealed a fascinating and distinctive member of the family of terrestrial planets. Dubbed the “iron planet” it has a huge metallic core, a relatively thin rocky mantle and a puzzling abundance of volatile chemical elements. In some ways the geology and landforms of Mercury resemble Earth’s Moon with its heavily cratered surface, extensive smooth lava plains and lack of an atmosphere, but it is unusually dark - a possible vestige of a primordial crust made of graphite! Tectonic features suggest that the entire planet has shrunk by several kilometres since it originally solidified.
This presentation will explore current knowledge about this rather uncelebrated planet and consider how its curious nature might be inherited from the special environmental conditions close to the Sun during the very earliest history of the Solar System. A look ahead to the upcoming Bepi-Colombo mission will anticipate some exciting new insights about this mysterious “pink dot”.
Speaker: Dr Simon Cuthbert
Learn more about Dr Simon Cuthbert