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Evidence for Young Volcanism on Mercury from the Third MESSENGER Flyby

Science  06 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5992, pp. 668-671
DOI: 10.1126/science.1188186

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Abstract

During its first two flybys of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft acquired images confirming that pervasive volcanism occurred early in the planet’s history. MESSENGER’s third Mercury flyby revealed a 290-kilometer-diameter peak-ring impact basin, among the youngest basins yet seen, having an inner floor filled with spectrally distinct smooth plains. These plains are sparsely cratered, postdate the formation of the basin, apparently formed from material that once flowed across the surface, and are therefore interpreted to be volcanic in origin. An irregular depression surrounded by a halo of bright deposits northeast of the basin marks a candidate explosive volcanic vent larger than any previously identified on Mercury. Volcanism on the planet thus spanned a considerable duration, perhaps extending well into the second half of solar system history.

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