The Origin and Differentiation of Planet Mercury

Unique physical and chemical characteristics of Mercury have been revealed by measurements from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. The closest planet to our Sun is made up of a large metallic core that is partially liquid, a thin mantle thought to be formed by solidification of a silicate magma ocean, and a relatively thick secondary crust produced by partial melting of the mantle followed by volcanic eruptions. However, the origin of the large metal/silicate ratio of the bulk planet and the conditions of accretion remain elusive. Metal enrichment may originate from primordial processes in the solar nebula or from a giant impact that stripped most of the silicate portion of a larger planet leaving Mercury as we know it today.

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