Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mercury's "spider" Pantheon Fossae formation linked to asteroid impact

23.09.2008
As NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft prepares for its second flyby of Mercury, new analyses of data from the first flyby will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Münster on Tuesday 23rd September.

Dr Sean Solomon, MESSENGER’s Principal Investigator, will present a model that suggests that the origin of the Pantheon Fossae, a radiating web of troughs located in the giant Caloris Basin, is directly linked to an impact crater at the centre of the web.

The Caloris Basin is the youngest-known large impact basin on Mercury. The basin was discovered in 1974 during Mariner 10’s flyby, but the centre of the basin had not been seen until MESSENGER’s first flyby on 14th January.

MESSENGER revealed that the crater’s interior appeared to have been flooded by volcanic material in a similar way to the lunar mare basins. A ring of troughs was observed around the circumference of the basin. However, the biggest surprise was the discovery of radiating pattern of troughs, initially dubbed “the spider” by the team, which was unlike any structure seen in lunar basins or elsewhere on Mercury.

The troughs are hundreds of kilometres in length and the central crater, named Apollodorus after the architect of the Pantheon temple in Rome, is about 40 kilometres across. Several models have been proposed for their formation, including uplift of the basin due to heating from below, pressure building up from the superposition of surrounding plains or inward crustal flow. However, to date, none of these models could explain the radial pattern observed.

Dr Solomon and colleagues developed a three-dimensional model of deformations in Mercury’s crust in the Caloris basin and then modelled the effect of an asteroid impact at the centre.

“We found that stresses building up within the crust could explain the troughs found around the circumference of the basin but not the radial web at the centre. When we modelled the effect of a meteorite striking the centre of a pre-stressed basin floor, we found that the formation of the crater relieved the stress build-up and weakened the central area, allowing the troughs to spread out like cracks in a windscreen,” said Dr Solomon.

As the crater appears to be superimposed over the troughs, it appears that the Pantheon network formed simultaneously with the Apollodorus crater.

However, not all scientists agree that the crater’s presence at the centre of the web is anything more than coincidence.

Professor Jim Head, of Brown University, Rhode Island, and co-investigator of the MESSENGER mission believes that the Pantheon troughs could also have been caused by volcanic activity. An upflow of magma at the centre of the basin could have formed a reservoir at depth and a radial network of dykes.

“The first MESSENGER flyby provided a lot of evidence that volcanism has played an important role in Mercury’s history, in particular around the Caloris Basin. We found what appears to be a shield volcano located just outside the Caloris Basin and the area is surrounded by smooth plains, relatively free from impacts, which suggests a young surface. Given the amount of volcanic activity we’re discovering in that area, I wouldn’t want to rule out a volcanic cause just yet. Maybe MESSENGER’s second flyby will help us solve the mystery,” said Prof Head.

Anita Heward | alfa
Further information:
http://www.europlanet-eu.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

nachricht Magnetic moment of a single antiproton determined with greatest precision ever
19.01.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>