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Salt glaciers on Mercury?

From Figure A1 of paper
From Figure A1 of paper.

Based on a new analysis of data from the Messenger spacecrat that orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015, scientists today posited the possibility that salt glaciers exist on Mercury and have reshaped its terrain in manner vaguely comparable to what Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has found on Mars.

You can read the paper here [pdf]. The image to the right, enhanced by the scientists to bring out the faint blue in the hollows, is remarkably reminiscent of the hollows and scallop terrain found in many places in the high Martian latitudes. From its conclusion:

Detecting widespread elemental volatile surface compositions, ubiquitous sublimation hollows, and extensive chaotic terrains has significantly reshaped our perception of Mercury’s geological past. These observations collectively point to the presence of volatile-rich strata spanning several kilometers in depth and likely formed before the [Late Heavy Bombardment] (∼3.8 billion years ago). This notion challenges the conventional view of a volatile-depleted Mercurian crust.

The morphologies within Mercury’s Raditladi basin bear a striking morphologic resemblance to glaciers on Earth and Mars, suggesting their origin from an impact-exposed [volatile-rich layer], likely containing halite. Our numerical simulations show that the unique rheological properties of halite, including the high thermal sensitivity of its viscosity, reinforce this hypothesis. These glacier-like features occur beyond the chaotic terrain boundaries, indicating a potentially global yet concealed, volatile-rich upper stratigraphy. We posit that the exposure of these volatile-rich materials, instigated by impact events, could have been instrumental in the formation and evolution of hollow features, signifying a complex geodynamic history of volatile migration and redistribution, essentially interconnecting some of the oldest and youngest stratigraphic materials on the planet.

The scientists do not have enough information as yet to determine if these glaciers are still active or not. Moreover, the theorized layer of volatile material near the surface remains unconfirmed, requiring in situ investigation to determine its existence with certainty. Like Mars, if it exists it likely only does so in the high latitudes.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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