Shattered parts of Mercury could be lurking on Earth

When Europe’s Solar Orbiter made its closest flyby of the Sun, the probe was in orbit of our solar system’s innermost planet, Mercury. The planet is just a little larger than our Moon and shouldn’t exist this close to the Sun, but Mercury, defying the odds, looms large, casting its shadow over the star.

New research suggests this planet was much larger and doomed its fate by a collision that sent pieces of it flying through. Some of them landed on Earth.

The planet we see today is a remnant of a super-Mercury that existed billions of years ago. The last theory was proposed at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houstonin which scientists focused on a small fraction of meteorites found in the village of Aubres in France that might match scientific models of conditions on Mercury.

Known as aubrites, they are pale in color and contain small amounts of metal. These form a small fraction of nearly 70,000 meteorites that have been collected across the globe. While most of these meteorites come from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a significant amount of these space rocks come from Mars and the Moon.

The diameter of Mercury is about 4880 km. (Photo: NASA)

So far, 80 aubrite meteorites have been found on Earth. “Aubrites share similar exotic mineralogies with Mercury lavas and are therefore considered potential analogues of Mercury’s crust. chemical and physical arguments of asteroid origin,” said Dr. Camille Cartier. planetary scientist at the University of Lorraine in France said in the document.

While Mercury today has no mantle unlike Earth, a long held idea holds that proto-Mercury or super-Mercury once had a larger silicate mantle that was removed by a first giant impact. .

Although the team does not yet have a specimen of Mercury, they say it is likely that large amounts of debris ejected from the collision will be picked up by gravity by the inner planets on their outward journey. They calculated that up to 20% of the escaped particles could collide with Venus and about 5% with Earth.

“If proto-Mercury had an Earth mass of 0.3 to 0.8 and lost most of its mantle, this would potentially represent 1% to 2.5% Earth mass of aubritic material accreting to Earth,” says the document.

Mercury captured by the BepiColombo spacecraft in October. (Photo: ESA)

Scientists have not yet announced that these strange materials were part of Mercury, however, as another group has speculated that they came from E-type asteroids.

However, if these space rocks are proven to be shards of the planet Mercury, it will mean that an ancient planet has been hiding on Earth for eons before humans set foot there.

Scientists will get a good view of the planet and its mysterious origin when the BepiColombo, a mission jointly developed by Europe and Japan, begins orbiting the innermost planet in 2025.

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