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The Evolution of Mercury’s Crust: A Global Perspective from MESSENGER

Science  01 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5927, pp. 613-618
DOI: 10.1126/science.1172226

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Abstract

Mapping the distribution and extent of major terrain types on a planet’s surface helps to constrain the origin and evolution of its crust. Together, MESSENGER and Mariner 10 observations of Mercury now provide a near-global look at the planet, revealing lateral and vertical heterogeneities in the color and thus composition of Mercury’s crust. Smooth plains cover approximately 40% of the surface, and evidence for the volcanic origin of large expanses of plains suggests that a substantial portion of the crust originated volcanically. A low-reflectance, relatively blue component affects at least 15% of the surface and is concentrated in crater and basin ejecta. Its spectral characteristics and likely origin at depth are consistent with its apparent excavation from a lower crust or upper mantle enriched in iron- and titanium-bearing oxides.

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