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Mystery Rising Within Mercury

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the rising-mecury dept.

NASA 120

astroengine writes "Something besides volcanic eruptions and asteroid and comet impacts has sculpted the surface of Mercury — an unknown process, possibly still going on today, that causes the ground to swell from the inside out. The evidence, collected by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft currently orbiting the innermost planet, is scattered all over Mercury, including a dramatic finding that half of the floor of the biggest crater on the planet has been raised above the walls. The MESSENGER team's findings were announced at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston on Wednesday and will be published in this week's Science."

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120 comments

Mystery Rising Within Mercury? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437327)

So it has come to this.

Re:Mystery Rising Within Mercury? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437491)

So it has come to this?

So it has come to this.

Re:Mystery Rising Within Mercury? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39439315)

Can we kill this fucking meme already? The last 10 articles I've read have the same exact verbatim post. I get it. It was on XKCD. It was mildly clever. Move along.

just guessing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437341)

Maybe the impact weakened the crust relative to its surroundings and the tidal force of the Sun caused the swelling. Inconsistencies in crust composition would explain why the shapes are different. Remember, Mercury is very close to the largest gravity well in the solar system.

Re:just guessing (3, Informative)

The Snowman (116231) | about 2 years ago | (#39437591)

Re:just guessing (4, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#39437807)

In the 1880s Giovanni Schiaparelli mapped the planet more accurately, and suggested that Mercury's rotational period was 88 days, the same as its orbital period due to tidal locking.

Seems plausible given I am a computer scientist and not an astrophysicist.

Seems plausible that you are a computer geek: there's a bug in your citation (scientists wouldn't do it, they live or die on publishing; nobody would read articles based on old references).
The same source [wikipedia.org] brings some "news" about the rotational period being 58.7 Earth days and the "tidal lock" being actually a spin-orbit resonance with a 3:2 ratio (1 "year" = 1.5 "days").

Re:just guessing (3, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 years ago | (#39438685)

No,no. I'll give him computer scientist. Considering how utterly craptastic software has been, There is very little expectation for computer scientists to actually do anything right.

Computer Science is the only profession next to Meteorology where you can be wrong most of the time and keep your job.

Re:just guessing (5, Funny)

Dragon Bait (997809) | about 2 years ago | (#39438937)

No,no. I'll give him computer scientist. Considering how utterly craptastic software has been, There is very little expectation for computer scientists to actually do anything right.

Computer Science is the only profession next to Meteorology where you can be wrong most of the time and keep your job.

I don't know. Most senators are re-elected for life.

Re:just guessing (2)

doston (2372830) | about 2 years ago | (#39441393)

Actually, Politicians do their jobs *perfectly*. Their job is to bilk the treasury, hand the money over to corporations (and take some from corporations for themselves) and keep the duped citizenry in just enough suspension of disbelief to stop an angry mob overrunning DC. It takes real skill, but they've been doing a great job so far!!

Re:just guessing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39439795)

No,no. I'll give him computer scientist. Considering how utterly craptastic software has been, There is very little expectation for computer scientists to actually do anything right.

Computer Science is the only profession next to Meteorology where you can be wrong most of the time and keep your job.

As he types on his computing device....

Re:just guessing (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39439969)

You're thinking of software engineering.

Computer scientists are to software engineers like mathematicians are to ... regular engineers.

Re:just guessing (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#39441385)

Computer scientists aren't responsible for the bugs in your software; they don't write software. They research ways to design better circuits and algorithms; math, not programming. Your typical software "engineer" is usually someone with less than a Master's degree.

Ask an MSCE to draw a schematic of a NAND gate. He's not likely to even know what one is.

I read a paper last year (wish I could find it) by a fellow working on his CS PhD about slashdot's moderation system. Very insightful stuff in the article, and nothing any MS programmer would likely be capable of.

Re:just guessing (3, Insightful)

RenderSeven (938535) | about 2 years ago | (#39441435)

COMPUTER SCIENCE: A study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the precision of the former and the success of the latter.
- Stan Kelly-Bootle

Re:just guessing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39442147)

That and he's been known to hang out with that Falcon dude...

Re:just guessing (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 2 years ago | (#39439601)

The same source [wikipedia.org] brings some "news" about the rotational period being 58.7 Earth days and the "tidal lock" being actually a spin-orbit resonance with a 3:2 ratio (1 "year" = 1.5 "days").

When I was allowed access to the "big kids" books in the library as a first grader, the one book I grabbed was a book about the Solar System.

Since the book was circa 1960, it told me Mercury was tidally locked with the sun and that's became a "fact" I've held on to ever since.

While some /. people get a bit worked up over the "Pluto is not a planet" thing, Merury's rotational period is my that's not what I learned! issue.

Being able to soak up information easily and remember it very well has its downsides. :)

Re:just guessing (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 2 years ago | (#39439627)

I forgot to mention part of the absurdity of the situation is that I learned the information this in the late 80's, long after it was known to be untrue. I was misled by that dusty book.

Re:just guessing (1)

daath93 (1356187) | about 2 years ago | (#39440629)

In 8th grade science i turned in a report on Jupiter stating it had rings. My source was a brand new set of encyclopedias my mother had bought me that year. Since the ones in the school library didnt say anything about jupiter having rings, my teacher failed my report because she could't verify my facts. She did begrudgingly and with much annoyance regrade my report when i brought in the source material, but she made it seem like she was doing ME a favor. This has clouded my view admittedly of teachers in general and science teachers in specific since.

Re:just guessing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39439805)

In the 1880s Giovanni Schiaparelli mapped the planet more accurately, and suggested that Mercury's rotational period was 88 days, the same as its orbital period due to tidal locking.

Seems plausible given I am a computer scientist and not an astrophysicist.

Seems plausible that you are a computer geek: there's a bug in your citation (scientists wouldn't do it, they live or die on publishing; nobody would read articles based on old references).
The same source [wikipedia.org] brings some "news" about the rotational period being 58.7 Earth days and the "tidal lock" being actually a spin-orbit resonance with a 3:2 ratio (1 "year" = 1.5 "days").

That showed 'em. well played.

Re:just guessing (1)

The Snowman (116231) | about 2 years ago | (#39441473)

The same source [wikipedia.org] brings some "news" about the rotational period being 58.7 Earth days and the "tidal lock" being actually a spin-orbit resonance with a 3:2 ratio (1 "year" = 1.5 "days").

And I actually read that after I posted it. Oh well, I got it wrong. Wouldn't be the first time. Astronomy fascinates me, but I suck at physics.

I think the important point from all of this is that if the Sun is pulling on the surface of Mercury, and it rotates very slowly from the Sun's perspective, then it makes sense that there could be craters where the center of the crater is higher up than the edges.

Re:just guessing (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 2 years ago | (#39438881)

No, some moron put the fisheye lens on the unit and the bulge appears anywhere you look...
Didn't we launch that around April Fools day?

Re:just guessing (0)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#39439543)

I'll say [xkcd.com]. It would take more energy to escape from Mercury than it would from the surface of Jupiter simply because of how far down Mercury sits inside the Sun's gravity well.

Re:just guessing (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about 2 years ago | (#39442305)

How about, maybe the surface is in a periodically slightly liquid glass state, and is, well, boiling?

Also, Mercury nominally keeps the same side of the planet to the sun. How true is that? Does it change by so many degrees within 1000 years? Or is it absolutely constant [which I would doubt, without some process holding it there, like the core being magnetically fixed and solid... which I understand it isn't].

space worm/moth metamorphasis (5, Funny)

ThorGod (456163) | about 2 years ago | (#39437343)

I predict the billion year "planet" phase of the great space moth is nearing completion. In another million years, the beautiful space moth will spread its wings and fly away.

Re:space worm/coon metamorphasis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437457)

I guarantee: no black scientists discovered this. Blacks: a net drain on society. They produce less than they consume in social services. PERIOD.

Re:space worm/moth metamorphasis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437469)

Cool story bro.

But some compelling evidence so we can believe you please?

Re:space worm/moth metamorphasis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437583)

I believe a picture of my scrotum is all you need.

Re:space worm/moth metamorphasis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39439143)

Oh come on.

If you're gonna troll at least put some effort into it.

Popcorn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437355)

Maybe it's being microwaved?

Fart (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437359)

Mercury is Farting

It's the Mycon (5, Funny)

MichaelusWF (2225540) | about 2 years ago | (#39437367)

This is a special place, filled with Juffo-Wup. But it is not the source

Re:It's the Mycon (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39438917)

No its the pile of money Disney allegedly' lost on John Carter

Re:It's the Mycon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39441799)

Juffo-Wup fills in my fibers and I grow turgid. Violent action ensues.

Negative G (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437369)

Can I get an Anti-Grav please!

What about this is unusual? (5, Interesting)

snookums (48954) | about 2 years ago | (#39437413)

I didn't see any mention in the linked article about what makes these features particularly odd. It says parts of the crust are tilted and raised by several kilometers in places. This is pretty commonplace geology caused by plate tectonics here on Earth (we call them mountain ranges). If Mercury has a liquid mantle, would we not expect to see similar folding and up-thrusting there? Is this different because of the size, shape, speed of movement?

Re:What about this is unusual? (2)

MrEricSir (398214) | about 2 years ago | (#39437603)

What's unusual is that both the article and summary are short on facts and end with an advertisement for a magazine.

Re:What about this is unusual? (4, Funny)

Errtu76 (776778) | about 2 years ago | (#39438127)

You must be new here.

Re:What about this is unusual? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437653)

If Mercury has a liquid mantle, would we not expect to see similar folding and up-thrusting there?

Exactly what I was thinking! It's not surprising that an incredibly hot planet like Mercury with a liquid mantle experiences quite a bit of instability at that level.

Re:What about this is unusual? (5, Informative)

stuckinarut (891702) | about 2 years ago | (#39437655)

Perhaps try the BBC article: Mercury has been 'dynamic world' [bbc.co.uk]

"Many scientists believed that Mercury was much like the Moon - that it cooled off very early in Solar System history, and has been a dead planet throughout most of its evolution," said Maria Zuber, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

"Now, we're finding compelling evidence for unusual dynamics within the planet, indicating that Mercury was apparently active for a long time."

Dr Zuber and her colleagues used laser measurements from Messenger to map out a large number of impact craters, and found that many had tilted over time. This suggests that geological processes within the planet have re-shaped Mercury's terrain after the craters were created.

A process called polar wander can cause geological features to shift around on a planet's surface.

In theory, the process of convection going on within the mantle could drive such changes. But Dr Zuber said this would be unusual in Mercury's case, because the mantle is so thin.

Another potential explanation could be that features on the surface were distorted as the planet's interior cooled and contracted. This fits in with observations that some surface features on Mercury have been exposed to high levels of stress.

Re:What about this is unusual? (1)

RicktheBrick (588466) | about 2 years ago | (#39439035)

According to this article http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/22/mercury_radar_bright_ice_research/ [theregister.co.uk], there might be ice on Mercury. Now the only thing we need is a huge dome, solar cells for energy and heat from the surrounding areas and we could make a small area of paradise on Mercury.

Re:What about this is unusual? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39441561)

I don't consider a tabloid newspaper like The Register to be a useful source of information.

Re:What about this is unusual? (2)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 2 years ago | (#39439517)

Since the notion that Mercury is a dead, inactive world like the Moon was common for a quite some time before we got much actual data from the planet, all gathered information will be referred to via that original reference.

It's a bit like how the "canals" mistranslation became a dominant factor for how English speakers viewed Mars for several decades.

The wording is just a reflection of the importance accorded to first impressions.

Shoggoth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437417)

The Shoggoth slumbers under mercury, any attempt to damage its celestial home is being nullified due to his great power. Soon it will awaken!

The Great Space Chicken Has Hatched! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437419)

Bok, bok, bokkkk!!!!

I know why (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#39437437)

Obviously it's happening because someone is hiding an autistic kid who can break government codes. Come on, we went 9 posts without a Mercury Rising reference? Ugh.

Only one man can figure this out. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437499)

Orville Redenbacher.

Quick, look for a man in horn-rimmed glasses and wearing a bowtie!

heavy elements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437617)

When are we going to mine this planet for Element 115 and 141 already, surely heavy stable elements exist there

Aliens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437637)

The planet is an alien ship and it's about ready to take off.

Lower gravity, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437733)

It has lower gravity. It's closer to the Sun which means more heating not only from output but tidal forces. It may have a different composition. All that could make it easier for swelling to occur due to the same forces that cause it on Earth. What have they told us that makes this more unusual then mountain building on Earth?

It's probably... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437855)

Nazis?

Its called (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39437869)

how planets form and evolve into the next "no shit! I never saw that" cycle.

Why so much core? (5, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#39437939)

Makes me wonder if Mercury was once the core of a much larger planet, and rhe mantle got knocked off in an impact.

so they just flipped the sign bit somewhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39438007)

so they just failed by flipping/losing the sign bit somewhere?

Any self-respecting /. geek should know... (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 2 years ago | (#39438213)

That any sudden rise under the surface of a pockmark or crater can only be one thing -- festering acne.
Next time hit that zit with some cleansers after popping it.

Bradeyism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39438289)

This is called bradeyism, and happens on earth as well. I think the best-known area for it is around Naples.

So basically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39438501)

Mercury is an "Iron Soufflé"?

also, earth (1)

mestar (121800) | about 2 years ago | (#39438895)

It's not just Mercury that is growing. Earth is growing as well:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJfBSc6e7QQ [youtube.com]

Re:also, earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39439635)

On Mercury, is there any evidence of an equal amount of shrinkage/subduction? If not, then the expansion is either from
1) Thermal expansion (it's getting even hotter?)
2) Change of phase (rock/metal turning to gas and expanding as a bubble?)
3) There's just _more_ stuff there somehow ("Expando Planet" model)

I know the Expando Planet model sounds kooky, but it could explain a few big mysteries. If the new mass comes from trapping and converting solar neutrinios into our ordinary matter, then the effect should be stronger on Mercury than Earth. But that's just crazy talk, right?

the motherlode (1)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#39438921)

It's subsurface petroleum pushing up! Black gold! Texas tea! If confirmed, the US will have a manned expedition to Mercury to start fracking the hell out of that rock by 2015.

mysterious alien swelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39439073)

This will end badly.

Arrogance of geomodelers? (4, Insightful)

gstrickler (920733) | about 2 years ago | (#39439781)

"Our geochemistry colleagues kept sending us back to the showers saying 'Your gravity field can't be right because none of the internal structure models are fitting.' But we do now know that we got the gravity field right. It was very difficult."

If the measurements don't fit your models, it doesn't mean the measurements are wrong. It could be measurement error, but it's more likely that your models are wrong. And they call themselves scientists.

Sand Worms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39439845)

Start the spice harvesters.

The reason is obvious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39442269)

Either it will soon crack open, and the Planet Eater will fly free...

      or it will blow up, but not before a small, strange craft with a living inhabitant is sent Earthwards....

                    mark "unidentified farm couple waiting to adopt*"

* April, 1993, Weekly World News, "NASA finds alien baby in crashed UFO"

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