Science News

Data From NASA’s Messenger Probe Sheds Light On Mercury’s Structure

The latest data from MESSENGER, the spacecraft which orbited Mercury for four years prior to its planned impact test (crash) into the planet last week, reveals Mercury once possessed a magnetic field similar to Earth’s which lasted for billions of years.

Mercury, being the smallest and innermost planet in our solar system, was always mysterious and little was known about its structure until now. NASA’s MESSENGER launched back in 2004 with the primary purpose of finding out more information about the planet.

According to data obtained by the spacecraft in the fall of 2014 and early 2015, the motion of liquid metal deep inside Mercury’s core generates the planet’s magnetic field, similar to how Earth’s field emerged, as reported by

After orbiting Mercury for more than 4 years, spacecraft MESSENGER ended its mission by crashing into Mercury’s surface on May 30, 2015.

According to UBC News, when MESSENGER flew close to the planet, its magnetometer collected data on the magnetism of rocks in Mercury’s surface. Scientists estimate  Mercury’s magnetic field is between 3.7 and 3.9 billion years old. The planet formed 4.5 billion years ago, around the same time as Earth.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Catherine Johnson” author_title=”Planetary geophysicist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and study’s lead author”]

These findings point out that Mercury has to be at least partially liquid. (…) Mercury is very small, so you would expect it to cool quickly after it formed and be completely solid, but if there was a little bit of nonmetallic stuff in Mercury’s core, it would lower its freezing point and make it hard to be completely solid.


“The strength of Mercury’s magnetic field ranged from its current strength to something about 100 times stronger, comparable to the strength of Earth’s magnetic field today,” according to Johnson who went on to say that if we “didn’t have these recent observations, we would never have known how Mercury’s magnetic field evolved over time. It’s just been waiting to tell us its story.”

In other space related news here on Immortal News, a 4.4 billion-year-old meteorite named black beauty is the first known piece of Mars’ crust to reach the Earth, according to a study conducted by researchers at Brown University.

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