Researchers have solved the mystery behind Mercury’s unusual “stealth” color scheme which has baffled scientists until now.
The new study, which was published in the journal Nature Geoscience, found the planet’s dark surface to be the result of a steady dusting of carbon from passing comets.
Mercury is not only the smallest of the eight planets in our solar system, it’s also the closest to the sun. It has no natural satellites and its orbital period is just about 88 Earth days.
As the planets surface is low in iron, researchers were able to rule out the presence of the most likely “darkening agent” — iron nanoparticles.
In the study, researchers modeled just how much carbon-rich material could have been dropped on the planet by passing comets and then fired projectiles at sugar-coated basalt rock in order to confirm the darkening effect of carbon.
The experiment confirmed that carbon could be trapped by impacts and produce a darkening effect on the lumps of basalt, which is similar to moon-rock. Subsequently, the results of the study support the notion that the planet was “painted black” by cometary dust over billions of years ago.
Dr. Megan Bruck Syal from Livermore Lawrence National Laboratory, the study’s first author, was quoted by BBC in a report as having said that it has “long been hypothesized that there’s a mystery darkening agent that’s contributing to Mercury’s low reflectance” and one idea that hadn’t been taken into consideration was that the planet “gets dumped on by a lot of material derived from comets.”
It’s long been hypothesized that there’s a mystery darkening agent that’s contributing to Mercury’s low reflectance […] One thing that hadn’t been considered was that Mercury gets dumped on by a lot of material derived from comets.
In other recent space coverage here on Immortal News, NASA announced that their flying saucer shaped supersonic decelerator is scheduled to be tested soon and that the LDSD, as the vehicle is known, will be launched out of the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.What are your thoughts on Mercury’s comet-dusted, carbon-blackened surface?