In the past, even Mercury could be suitable for life

In the past, even Mercury could be suitable for life
In the past, even Mercury could be suitable for life
Anonim

The new hypothesis of the origin of extensive cracks on Mercury associates them with the evaporation of volatile substances - the "building blocks" of life.

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Mercury is located closer to the Sun than other planets, has no atmosphere, heats up above 400 ° C and is in no way suitable for life. However, the authors of a new article published in Scientific Reports found that in the distant past this inhospitable world was quite comfortable and still retained traces of simple organic substances - the "building blocks" of living matter.

It is worth remembering that the largest impact crater on Mercury is the Heat Plain, which is over 1,500 kilometers across and covers almost a third of its surface. On the opposite side of the planet, it is "reflected" by a region with a particularly rugged landscape with many steep depressions and rocks. According to one version, the impact that created the Plain of Heat (Caloris) was so strong that its seismic waves converged here, forming these chaotic piles.

However, the authors of the new article, Alexis Rodriguez and colleagues at the Institute of Planetary Sciences (PSI), have found a number of arguments against this hypothesis, putting forward a new one. According to them, the cracking of the surface of Mercury could be a consequence of the rise from the depths of light molecules - water, methane, nitrogen, escaping into space during the time of the distant youth of the planet.

Scientists analyzed observational data obtained by the Messenger mission between 2011 and 2015, showing that the chaotic landscape of Mercury formed only 1.8 billion years ago - a full two billion years after the impact that formed the Plain of Heat. In addition, their calculations indicate that the collision energy was not enough to ensure that the seismic waves created by it could cause such significant surface rearrangements on the back side of the planet. Finally, close examination of the Mercurian topography revealed many similar chaotic structures scattered all over the place - although not so large.

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This testifies to the global nature of the processes that created them, and Rodriguez and co-authors put forward a suitable option: not a short catastrophe, but a relatively gradual, but global mechanism associated with the loss of volatile substances by Mercury from the upper layers of the crust - and its subsidence. Evaporation could be stimulated by magma, which heated the bowels of the planet, or by the Sun, which in the first epochs of its existence gradually flared up more and more brilliantly.

Nevertheless, for a certain period of time, not too deep under the surface of Mercury, very curious conditions could have formed: richness of substances - key "building blocks of living organisms", including water; protection from solar ultraviolet radiation; changeable, but generally stable environmental conditions - all this does not allow to completely exclude the appearance of life here, even if it is very cautious, primitive and did not last long.

“If the findings are confirmed,” said Mark Sykes of the authors, “these and similar areas where Mercury's crust has collapsed will be important candidates for landing sites for future missions that can explore the origins of the planet’s crust and its possible“life potential.””.

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