When Europe’s Solar Orbiter conducted its closest flyby to the Sun, the probe was orbiting the innermost planet in our solar system – Mercury. This planet is only slightly larger than our Moon, and should not be so close to the Sun, but Mercury, overcoming all obstacles, becomes larger, casting its shadow on the star.
New research suggests that the planet was enormous and that its fate was ruined by a collision that sent its fragments flying off. Part of it landed on Earth.
The planet we see today is the remnant of a super-Mercury that existed billions of years ago. The latest theory has been proposed at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, with scientists focusing on a small fraction of meteorites found in the village of Aubres, France that may match scientific models of conditions on Mercury.
Known as aubrites, they are light in color and contain small amounts of metals. These make up a small fraction of the approximately 70,000 meteorites that have been collected from around the world. While most of these meteorites are from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a significant amount of these space rocks are 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. “Obrates share similar exotic minerals with Mercury’s lava and are therefore considered as possible analogues of Mercury’s crust. Although it is believed that they are not Mercurian meteorites, mostly of the chemical and physical arguments of asteroid origin. Dr Camille Cartier, a planetary scientist at the University of Lorraine in France, said in the paper.
While Mercury has no mantle unlike Earth today, a long-standing belief holds that proto-Mercury or super-Mercury once had a large silicate mantle that was ejected by an early giant impact. .
While the team does not yet have a sample of Mercury, they say that it is likely that the large amount of debris ejected from the collision was gravitationally captured by the inner planets during their outer course. They calculated that up to 20 percent of the escaped particles could hit Venus and about 5 percent hit Earth.
“If proto-Mercury was 0.3 to 0.8 Earth-mass and most of it was lost, it would potentially represent 1 percent to 2.5 percent of Earth-mass of the orbital material that would have accumulated on Earth,” the paper said.
Mercury captured by the BepiColombo spacecraft in October. (Photo: ESA)
However, scientists have yet to declare these strange materials to be part of Mercury, as another group speculates that they originated from E-type asteroids.
However, if it is proved that these space rocks actually originated from the planet Mercury, it would mean that an ancient planet was hidden before humans stepped on Earth.
Scientists will get a good view of the planet and its mysterious origins when BepiColombo, a mission jointly developed by Europe and Japan, begins orbiting the innermost planet in 2025.