Don’t be fooled by Mercury’s murky gray coloration: As it turns out, it has quite the colorful—and hot—past. In fact, MIT scientists now believe the planet once harbored great oceans of magma.
To come to this conclusion, researchers used data from NASA’s MESSENGER probe (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging), which orbits the planet, and analyzed X-ray fluorescence data. This helped scientists find two types of rock on Mercury’s surface, both of which could only be created by vast amounts of magma.
Alas, this isn’t a particularly recent phenomenon: The magma ocean existed about 4.5 billion years ago, not long after the planet’s formation. The paper on the results is available to read in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters journal.
It certainly makes Mercury’s past seem a bit more interesting despite its plain exterior. It’ll be interesting to see what scientists find next on the planet closest to the Sun.
This story, "Mercury's early magma ocean is one you wouldn't have wanted to swim in" was originally published by TechHive.