Space Science Reviews

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 3-70

First online:

Mercury: A post-Mariner 10 assessment

  • Robert G. StromAffiliated withDepartment of Planetary Sciences, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona

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Our knowledge of Mercury has improved dramatically since the flight of Mariner 10. The planet is probably differentiated into a large iron-rich core (∼75% of the total radius) and a relatively thin (∼600 km) silicate mantle. Although the surface of Mercury superficially resembles the Moon, there are three main differences: (1) large areas of relatively old intercrater plains, (2) a widespread (probably global) distribution of lobate scarps, and (3) a similar albedo between young smooth plains and the older mercurian highlands. The origin of Mercury's plains units is still uncertain but a volcanic origin is favored for at least large tracts of the younger smooth plains. The older intercrater plains seem to span a range of ages, large tracts of which appear to have been implaced during the period of intense bombardment. The widespread distribution of lobate scarps probably resulted from a period of global contraction relatively late in Mercury's history. This period of contraction probably resulted primarily from cooling of the lithosphere and/or core following core formation. The crater diameter density distribution on the Moon, Mars and Mercury indicates that all the terrestrial planets experienced a period of intense bombardment early in their histories and that the objects responsible for this bombardment probably belonged to the same population(s).