There is tectonic activity on icy Mercury

(Mirror Daily, United States) New research from scientists proves that Earth is not the only planet in our solar system to display quakes. Tectonic activity has been registered on the closest planet to the Sun too. Mercury’s cliffs provided researchers with evidence of the phenomenon.

NASA specialists account for tectonic activity on Mercury based on information from their spacecraft, Messenger, and Mariner 10. They both found particular rock formations on the planet, resembling cliffs. Scientists could determine that they are six hundred miles long, and almost two miles high. They are called fault scarps.

Another important data on the formations is their age. According to scientists, they are quite young, aged less than fifty million years. This means that the fault scarps started to form in recent ages, and the only possible explanation is tectonic activity.

Researchers also try to explain what determines the quakes in the first place. They believe that the phenomenon is related to the process of cooling of the small planet. As temperatures drop, Mercury cools and contracts. Because of the shrinking process, the quakes, hence the cliffs, emerge, scientists say.

According to previous research, experts think that the quakes could score magnitude five on the Richter scale, or even higher than this. They have already registered such movements on the Moon. They believe that the tectonic activity on the Moon and that on Mercury are quite similar.

The new finding is significant because specialists claim that quakes can be linked to forms of life. However, there are small chances for researchers to find life on Mercury, mainly because of the temperatures which make the planet impossible to inhabit. The smallest planet in our solar system displays wide discrepancies between the temperatures during the day (427 °C) and those registered at night (−173 °C).

One of Mercury’s features keeps scientists intrigued. In spite of its low temperatures, its icy center and the phenomenon of shrinking, the planet still preserves heat resources. This is one of the mysteries they still have to solve about the small planet.

Researchers believed that Mercury was geologically active only in the past. Nevertheless, the recent information they have analyzed proves them that quakes can still occur today on the small celestial body.

A new study on Mercury’s tectonic activity was published in Nature Geoscience.

Image courtesy of: Wikipedia