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Mercury Tectonics - Review

Mercury likely started with a faster spin. Solar tides de-spun the planet to its current (59 days) spin rate Ancient global lineament system observed Planet bulges less at the equator when spinning slowly Stresses created when rigid lithosphere readjusts to new shape Orientations of lineaments are a good match to model predictions

Core cools with time Inner core of frozen iron grows Planet shrinks a little Usually not a problem but Mercury has a huge core Mercury shrunk several km in radius Shrinkage compresses the rigid lithosphere Causes thrust faults to form Extensive set of lobate scarps No preferred azimuth Global distribution

Discovery Rupes

Mercurys Geologic Timeline

Mercury forms, probably with a large core or suffers a giant impact Lithosphere forms Despinning results in shape change and global tectonism Heavy bombardment
Homogenizes regolith up to 20 km Large basins form Volcanic flooding inter-crater plains Basins <500km removed Pre-Tolstojan


Core shrinks 1-2 km Global system of thrust faults forms lobate scarps Caloris impact structure forms
Antipodal weird terrain Smooth plains form Subsidence and rebound in Caloris basin


Mansurian Kuiperian

Lighter cratering continues Bright rayed craters Polar volatiles accumulate



lunarlandinghoax.com northamericanbigfoot.blogspot.com

earth : the fragmental material composing part of the surface of the globe; especially : cultivable soil - Merriam-Webster dictionary

We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot. - Leonardo da Vinci Mandespite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishmentsowes his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. - Author Unknown A nation that destroys its soils, destroys itself. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Feb. 26, 1937.
Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David Montgomery (UW-ESS)

Importance of Planetary Regolith

The lunar regolith is the actual boundary layer between the solid Moon and the matter and energy that fill the solar system. It contains critical information about both of these regions The regolith is the source of virtually all our information about the Moon. McKay et al. (1991) from Lunar Sourcebook Same could be said for every other planetary body (modified for bodies with atmospheres)

Earth soil

Lunar Regolith
fine-grained loose particulates coarse-grained fragmental and glassy breccias large blocks

fractured bedrock

Earth soil
Formation Mechanisms
Physical Weathering Freeze/thaw sand-blasting bioturbation (roots & worms) water-driven abrasion breakdown (rivers, waves) glacial scouring/scraping -> loess (very fine grains) Chemical Weathering acid rain dissolving and reprecipitating oxidation

Lunar Regolith
Formation Mechanisms
Why does the moon even have soil with basic structure similar to Earth? Which of these Earth weathering processes could operate on the Moon (or Mercury, Venus, Mars, etc.)? Space Weathering meteorite bombardment high-energy atomic particles and cosmic radiation

Weathering mechanism hints

Weathering mechanism hints

Weathering mechanism hints

from David Montgomery ESS-326 (Geomorphology) lecture

Weathering mechanism hints


from David Montgomery ESS-326 (Geomorphology) lecture

Weathering mechanism hints


from David Montgomery ESS-326 (Geomorphology) lecture

Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus





Space Weathering
Micrometeorite bombardment Solar wind / cosmic rays Thermal cycling?

Micrometeorite Bombardment
Kinetic Energy mv2 Impact velocity? On the Moon: 10,000 30,000 m/s

Speed Comparisons
Baseball pitch = 45 m/s Rifle bullet = 1000 m/s Moons orbital speed = 1020 m/s Earths orbital speed = 29,780 m/s Lunar escape velocity = 2380 m/s

Space Weathering
Micrometeorite Bombardment
Comminution (breaking up) particles Agglutination grains get welded together by impact glass Vaporization of material
Heavy material recondenses on nearby grains Volatile material enters atmosphere

Solar Wind and Cosmic Rays

Energetic particles cause sputtering (ejection of atoms from surface) Ions can get implanted Nuclear effects change isotopes enables dating of surface exposure time

Collectively known as space-weathering

Spectral band-depth is reduced Objects get darker and redder with time

Regolith = rock blanket

General term in planetary science, aka soil (but not technically) Very fine-grained, loose particles Lunar regolith: 3-15 m thick

Acts as an insulating layer and restricts heat flow 2-3km thick under lunar highlands and 1km under maria

How do we know the thicknesses?

Apollo Active Seismic Experiments Terrestrial P-wave velocities for comparison: basaltic ash - 300 m/s Meteor Crater ejecta - 400 m/s pumice - 800-1800 m/s granite - 4000 m/s

Watkins & Kovach (1973)

Both figures from Watson and Kovach (1973)

Watkins & Kovach (1973)

Effects of subsurface structure on crater morphology Effects of cratering on surface and subsurface structure

From Wilcox et al., Meteoritics and Planetary Science, v. 40, p.695

Lunar Core Samples

Core samples showed regolith is layered: Apollo 15: 2.42 m deep core contained 42 major textural units No correlation between layers in nearby cores, and each layer well-mixed Impact Gardening Impacts invert local microstratigraphy and produce new ejecta layers New surface layers stirred by micrometeorites Estimated time required to excavate the regolith at least once to a given depth: 9 mm = 10 million years 70 mm = 1 billion years Estimated average accumulation rate over past 3 Gyr: 1.5 m/Gyr Estimated lateral transport: 50% of regolith comes from < 3km away

Lunar Regolith Components

Two types of glassy lunar regolith particles: Agglutinates

- glassy breccias containing rock fragments and vesicles - vesicles created by gas bubbles from implanted solar wind

Glass spherules - impact melt solidifies in flight

- can also form in lava fountains

Both formed by micrometeorite impacts causing partial melting of regolith material.

Regolith Particle Size Distributions

Crater rim soil Typical immature soil Typical mature soil Glass spherules

Laboratory data from impact into basalt (Gault et al., 1963) Possible distribution after prolonged comminution

Regolith Particle Size Distributions

Crater rim soil Typical immature soil Typical mature soil Glass spherules

Solar Wind
A stream of charged particlesa plasmaejected from the upper atmosphere of the sun. It consists mostly of electrons and protons with energies of about 1 keV (velocity = 400 - 750 km/s) 95% ionized hydrogen (protons and electrons), 4% helium, and 1% minor ions, mostly C, N, O, Ne, Mg, Si, and Fe
Too much information (-; eV = electron volt = a unit of energy 1 eV = 1.6E-19 J (Joules) mp = proton mass = 1.66 e-27 kg Kinetic energy = 0.5*mp*v2 = 2.1E-16 J = 1.3 keV

Cosmic Rays: high energy particles from outer space

includes solar wind particles 90% protons, 10% He nuclei, 1% heavier elements and electrons No atmosphere + No magnetosphere = No protection



Large Hadron Collider (14 TeV)

OMG particle


Cosmic Ray Properties and Effects

Source Proton Flux (cm-2 s-1) 108 Energy
Penetration distance


Solar wind Solar flares Galactic

1 keV

30 nm

implantation of H, He, other rare gases radiation damage (amorphous layers on surface grains) Radionuclide production Physical damage (track production) stable and radioactive isotope production physical damage (track production)


1 - 100 MeV ~3 GeV

mm - cm

cm - m

Effects of space-weathering on surface reflectance spectra Spectral band-depth is reduced (but features still present) Objects get darker and redder with time

Pieters et al. (1993)

Redder doesnt mean more red (necessarily) to a spectroscopist Red is a relative term meaning longer wavelengths So if a surface becomes less reflective at shorter wavelengths, that is called reddening

From http://www.psrd.hawaii.edu/Aug09/solarwind.helium.html

Nanophase iron is largely responsible

Micrometeorites and sputtering vaporize target material Heavy elements (like Fe) recondense onto nearby grains Electron microscopes show patina a few 10s of nm thick Patina contains spherules of nanophase Fe Fe-Si minerals also contribute to reddening Metallic Fe content in surface can also be increased by sputtering of O by He ions

Reiner Gamma: one of several lunar swirls Albedo features correlated with higher local magnetic fields Possible explanation: Mag. field deflects solar wind particles, reduces surface darkening

Rays of Tycho ejecta High albedo = Young age (less time for space weathering to darken the surface)

Reading Assignment
Prep. For Venus lecture Ch. 7, Sect. 3-4 Ch. 9, Sect. 4-5 (also 1-3 for those who havent taken Intro. Geology) Ch. 11, Sect. 4-7