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Planet Mercury Has Shrunk More Than Thought

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the getting-small dept.

Space 58

sciencehabit writes "Measuring just 4880 kilometers across, Mercury is a small world. The planet became slightly smaller as its interior cooled, which caused Mercury to shrink, buckling its surface and creating numerous cliffs and ridges. Now, after studying 5934 of these features, researchers report online today in Nature Geoscience that Mercury's contraction was much greater than previously thought: During the past 4 billion years, the planet's diameter decreased by 7 to 14 kilometers. The greater estimate of shrinkage accords with models that predict how much a rocky planet should contract as its interior cools; the new work may also lend insight into the evolution of extrasolar planets that, like Mercury and unlike Earth, lack any moving continents."

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Someone left it in the dryer too long.. (5, Funny)

toonces33 (841696) | about 8 months ago | (#46501723)

Easy mistake to make.

Re:Someone left it in the dryer too long.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502061)

great site, keep so!

Filmes Online Grátis [maisfilmesonline.net]

Re:Someone left it in the dryer too long.. (1)

gargleblast (683147) | about 8 months ago | (#46502191)

This will soon be the text of a new motivational poster: Mercury: Think. Or Shrink.

Re:Someone left it in the dryer too long.. (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about 8 months ago | (#46502391)

So can we look forward to pre-shrunk planets?

Poison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46501727)

Do we need to worry about our water being contaminated in the event any of part of Mercury makes it to Earth?

Neil deGrasse Tyson called (-1)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about 8 months ago | (#46501735)

He wants us to stop calling it a planet.

Re:Neil deGrasse Tyson called (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46501991)

Mercury meets the definition of planet, why not call it one?

Re:Neil deGrasse Tyson called (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502033)

Earth is called a planet, yet it most certainly isn't one.

Re:Neil deGrasse Tyson called (0)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 8 months ago | (#46503017)

Earth is a toxic waste repository for the dominant invasive species.

Re:Neil deGrasse Tyson called (1)

Ferrofluid (2979761) | about 8 months ago | (#46501993)

You're thinking of Pluto.

Re:Neil deGrasse Tyson called (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502049)

woosh!

Re:Neil deGrasse Tyson called (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502293)

You're thinking of Pluto.

No, Uranus.

Re:Neil deGrasse Tyson called (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46504109)

You mean Urrectum?

Re:Neil deGrasse Tyson called (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46504939)

You mean Urrectum?

"And I said, rectum? I damn near killed 'em!"

Whoa, tiny planet!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46501745)

Only 14 kilometers diameter left ? Hardly a planet anymore.

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (3, Informative)

Hussam Al-Tayeb (3423459) | about 8 months ago | (#46501831)

nope, decreased by 14km (not TO 14km). It i still around twice the size of pluto.

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (4, Informative)

sidyan (110067) | about 8 months ago | (#46501949)

Mercury [wikipedia.org] 's diameter is 2.11 times that of 134340 Pluto [wikipedia.org] , but its mass is 25.3 that of the puny dwarf planet.

Discounting metallic hydrogen on Jupiter and Saturn, Mercury's definately the most Metal planet in the solar system.

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502175)

"definately "?

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46504279)

I got to give credit for not using "defiantly" which is what might have happened if I post'd the gp...

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 8 months ago | (#46503615)

Mercury [wikipedia.org] 's diameter is 2.11 times that of 134340 Pluto [wikipedia.org] , but its mass is 25.3 that of the puny dwarf planet.

Discounting metallic hydrogen on Jupiter and Saturn, Mercury's definately the most Metal planet in the solar system.

Of course it would be, you don't ever hear of a metal band with some pansy ass name like Jupiter.

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 8 months ago | (#46507051)

Of course it would be, you don't ever hear of a metal band with some pansy ass name like Jupiter.

Heh... in fact...

http://visualioner.files.wordp... [wordpress.com]

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (1)

operagost (62405) | about 8 months ago | (#46506173)

Thanks, Dr. Tyson, but we don't need Pluto's minor planet designation any more than we need Ceres'. It's pretty friggin' famous.

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#46507577)

Mercury's definately the most Metal planet in the solar system.

ROCK ON!

|nn|/

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! Metal Planet (1)

bbsalem (2784853) | about 8 months ago | (#46509641)

So its average density must be high, and the number of pits and caves on its surface and the collapse features say that volitile elements have been cooked out of what is left. Maybe someone in the know can tell if there is much S on the surface.

I'm sure that long after we have looked at differentiated planetessimals from the asteroid belt for heavy metals, imagine finding double the reserves of rare Iron group metals, or many times the amount of Au, Pt, Zr, Rh, Pd, Ir, Ti, Zr, out there than on the earth's crust, or better rare earths, that Mercury might be a good place to prospect for refractory heavy metals, ones with high melting points. How Ironic that Hg is probably long cooked off the planet! It would be a tough place to work, though. Most places in the solar system that have metals would have to manufacture refined products out there to make it worthwhile to bring them to earth,

Re:Whoa, tiny planet!! (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 8 months ago | (#46502093)

nope, decreased by 14km (not TO 14km). It i still around twice the size of pluto.

So it's safe from being plutoed [theregister.co.uk] by NDT [wikipedia.org] .... for now.

Re: Whoa, tiny planet!! (1)

kyjellyfish (1703658) | about 8 months ago | (#46507095)

The leading theory says that Mercury survived an early solar system collision, like the glancing blow that a protoplanet had with theEarth, which spawned the Moon. But Mercury's collision was more head-on, which resulted in the majority of it's crust and mantle being blown away. Thus, Mercury's makeup is primarily iron/nickle, like Earth's core.

Shrinkage sucks. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46501747)

It's the girth, not the length that matters.

Re:Shrinkage sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46503803)

I tried that, but it didn't suck enough.

Shrinkage (3, Funny)

Tippler (3027557) | about 8 months ago | (#46501771)

The shrinkage of a body in response to cooling was experimentally derived by Dr. Costanza in the 90's.

Re:Shrinkage (1)

banda (206438) | about 8 months ago | (#46502149)

...like a frightened turtle

Re:Shrinkage (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 8 months ago | (#46503405)

Unfortunately, specialists such as Dr. Benes are not aware of all the research done in the field of shrinkage and continue to publish papers that are crucially missing this important information.

Laugh (1)

koan (80826) | about 8 months ago | (#46501783)

Mercury is trying to tell all the other planets it's shrinkage but they know better.

Obligatory penis joke aside, I'm surprised to hear it has "cooled" with it's greatest distance from the Sun being a mere 69,816,900 km.

Re:Laugh (5, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | about 8 months ago | (#46501799)

I'm surprised to hear it has "cooled" with it's greatest distance from the Sun being a mere 69,816,900 km.

The dark side of Mercury is a balmy -280F. Hard to retain any meaningful amount of heat when you have no atmosphere. :)

Re:Laugh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46504319)

I would think the lack of atmosphere would prevent losses rather then insulate because a vacuum provides the best thermal insulation. If you look into building space craft you'll see removing heat is one of the primary challenges along with balancing the heat from the sun side and the shadow side. The reason why the shadow side of Mercury is freezing cold is because it barely rotates around it's axis it's day is equal to 58+ days on earth. It has plenty of time to lose heat due through radiation. Also it only rotates 1.5 times during an orbit of the sun....

Re:Laugh (2)

asylumx (881307) | about 8 months ago | (#46504677)

I think you're talking out of Uranus.

Re:Laugh (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46504975)

Lets turn this around, how would an atmosphere promote loss? Where does that heat go? It still has to deal with vacuum insulation, just now a few kilometers higher than before. You can have evaporative cooling of some sort, where heat blows off part of the atmosphere, but then it wouldn't last very long without a source on the surface. Otherwise, it would help trap heat, which still has to go into the vacuum of space to fully leave the planet.

Re:Laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46508663)

It has "cooled" as compared to red hot boiling lava. Even the "day" side is not nearly that hot.

It MUST be... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46501789)

CLIMATE CHANGE!

Is there anything that a few parts per billion of CO2 cannot do?

Mercury may be shrinking... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46501855)

...but Uranus is expanding!

Re:Mercury may be shrinking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46503243)

Must be in jail. Always expands there.

Of course (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about 8 months ago | (#46501917)

Space is cold!

warning: bad pun inbound (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 8 months ago | (#46502227)

Ball-shrivelingly cold, as it turns out.

Must be all that global warming (0, Troll)

p51d007 (656414) | about 8 months ago | (#46501999)

Caused by man, GW Bush, & Dick Cheney?

Shrinkage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502015)

Isn't it common knowledge?

Re:Shrinkage (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 8 months ago | (#46503411)

It's only common knowledge if you are male. Some females, however, did learn about shrinkage from a TV show called "Seinfeld".

Obama Kerry FAIL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502241)

The Terror Sex-Slave duo President Mr. Barak Hussain Obama and Secretary of State Mr, John Kerry (Known in Vietnam as the 'Murderer Of The Mekong' lost serious Face with the good peoples of Crimea rejecting their EU Annexation and Enslavement Plans as Promulgated By The United Nations.

This is a WAKEUP call to the constitutional citizens of the United States of America.

The Monsters Obama and Kerry CAN be KILLED !

The Constitutional Citizens of the United States of America CAN KILL the Monsters !

Simple.

Thought has shrunk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502431)

That sucks.

The New Cosmos Series (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46502443)

Sucks so far

My excuse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46504377)

Maybe it's just cold... Or at least that's what I told her.

Where's the planet hater? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46504457)

We need that planet hater from the planetarium who talks all dramatically on PBS with hi swishy washy science to delist this planet like the freak did with Pluto. Yeeeeehaaaaah! I forgot his name but most people did too.

saw this one coming? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 8 months ago | (#46505077)

In other news, your mother's diameter has expanded by 2km.

... but IS IT STILL A PLANET? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 8 months ago | (#46506247)

That's the important question.

We don't want a repeat of the Pluto incident. The solar system is already 11% gone, who knows how much we'll lose.

Sing with me! (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 8 months ago | (#46507361)

It's a small world after all...

Re:Sing with me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46509033)

Beat me to it.

That's funny (1)

DougDot (966387) | about 8 months ago | (#46507397)

I thought cold caused shrinkage.

Too bad ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46507689)

The messanger itself didnt get the message about some recent pharmaceutical advances ...

4 billion years ago? Give me a break! Who provided (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46507931)

4 billion years ago? Give me a break! Who provided the measurements?

George (1)

MyDirtIsRed (2882529) | about 8 months ago | (#46508543)

It was in the pool!!!
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