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Beyond Earthly Skies

Formation of Mercury-like Planets

10 May 2013, 10:40 UTC
Formation of Mercury-like Planets
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Mercury is the innermost planet in the Solar System. The bulk composition of Mercury consists of approximately 70 percent iron rich material and 30 percent silicate material. Because most of the planet is comprised of dense iron rich material, Mercury is the second densest planet in the Solar System, with Earth being the densest planet. The Earth’s high density is mainly the result of gravitational compression. In contrast, Mercury is smaller than the Earth and is much less gravitationally compressed. Instead, the reason for Mercury’s high density is due to the planet’s enormous iron rich core. Mercury is basically comprised of an enormous iron rich core with a thin overlying mantle of silicate material. If gravitational compression were factored out, Mercury will be about 20 percent denser than the Earth.Figure 1: A composite image of Mercury captured by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. Credit: Image compiled by Gordan Ugarkovic.Figure 2: Most recent models place CoRoT-7b and Kepler-10b on a mass-radius diagram close to a composition similar to Mercury. The black triangle on the vertical axis denotes the Earth. Credit: Wagner et al. 2011.A number of explanations have been proposed to account for Mercury’s unusually large iron rich core. One explanation involves a ...

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