It’s only natural that we feel the need to sate this overwhelming hunger for knowledge that has taken us so far from our humble begins. It’s why we had explorers in the first place, why we left the place of our ancestral birth and why evolved as much as we did. So how could we sit idly by while there’s so much left to learn and to discover?
The answer is that we really can’t. We’re in a constant search for information, even going to the once deified stars above in order to stay satiated. Finally answering a millennia old mystery, researchers reveal the secret behind Mercury’s mysterious dark color.
Astronomers have long been more or less certain that carbon was responsible for Mercury’s gloomy complexion. But as it turns out, even though they were right about carbon being the culprit, they weren’t right about why this was.
The previous, more or less acknowledged theory was that the planet was being coated in carbon because of the ceaseless comets colliding with the astral body. Additionally, similar to the moon, Mercury keeps getting blasted by solar winds, covering in iron, which could also be responsible for the dark color.
As it turns out, the comets hitting the planet were in fact responsible for the planet’s dark colored state. But not because of what the scientists thought – carbon particles coating the planet – but instead for a far more interesting and awe-inspiring reason.
When colliding with the surface of planet, some of the comets with the highest velocity and impact speed would occasionally be driven so deep into the planet that the planet’s old surface would rise up and become visible from Earth. This means that the dark hue is the planet’s original color.
Based on a model they made to better explain what happened to the planet since its inception, the researchers discovered that Mercury had a beginning similar to others. Starting off as a giant ball of magma, the planet eventually cooled down and its elements sank far below the surface.
But graphite, an element particularly common on the planet, was too light to sink along with the other, heavier elements. As it rose back to the top it started crystalizing, forming a dark, half-mile-thick crust. Multiple seismic and volcanic events, along with the powerful solar winds, eventually covered this crust.
Finally, as comets started pelleting the surface of the giant space rock, they began causing craters big enough to reveal the planet’s natural color.
Image source: Wikimedia