Mercury, considered the smallest planet in the entire solar system, is said to be shrinking to an even smaller size.
The findings were published in the Nature Geoscience and research shows that Mercury now has a diameter of more or less 3,032 miles, which is 8.6 miles smaller than its diameter 4 billion years ago.
In the 1970s, scientists have already observed that the planet became smaller because it has been cooling down as years passed by. This was evidenced by the photos of the planet taken by the Mariner 10 probe.
The recent findings were based on data that was gathered from the MESSENGER spacecraft of NASA. The spacecraft entered Mercury’s orbit back in 2011 and was able to map 55% of the area that the Mariner 10 had missed.
Researchers were able to say that Mercury is shrinking due to the wrinkles that appear on its surface, which can be likened to wrinkles that appear on an apple’s surface when it starts to dry up and shrink.
— Gio Chrea (@GChrea) February 6, 2014
Today, there is a more accurate explanation to the shrinking – plate tectonics. According to one scientist, they have seen big slabs of rocks sliding over each other, and the landscape of the planet is crumpling up as a result. The difference between the Earth and Mercury is that Earth has several plates that shift, while Mercury only has one shell as a crust.
The movement of rocks sliding has provided a beautiful effect that they call scarps. Paul Byrne, the study’s lead author, said that the scarps that result from plate tectonics are Mercury’s own version of a mountain belt that provides a picturesque landscape. The wrinkly features found on Mercury have also been found on Mars and on the Moon.
— Beyond The Matter (@BeyondMatter) March 16, 2014
This new findings will allow further studies to be conducted so scientists can answer different questions, such as why the shrinking happens, and when it started.
Why Is The Planet Mercury Shrinking?
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