Magellan image of Venus

We are interested in using a variety of data to characterize Mercury, one of the terrestrial planets, in order to further our understanding of the formation and evolution of planets like Earth.

Earth-based Observations

With Earth-based telescopes, it is possible to measure the spin state of Mercury and to probe the interior of the planet. Links and illustrations related to our Science paper can be found here.

We are continuing Earth-based observations to characterize the evolution of the spin state on decadal timescales (existence, amplitude, and phase of a free libration; deviation from Cassini state), which can potentially inform us about core-mantle boundary processes and energy dissipation in the interior.

Science Magazine Cover Illustration

MESSENGER Observations

Imaging and topography data reveal extensive scarps (compressional features) across the surface of Mercury. The interpretation is that the planet shrunk as it cooled down. The timing of these events can inform us about the thermal evolution of the planet.

Magnetometer data reveal that Mercury has a weak magnetic field. There is considerable interest in elucidating the origin of the field. If due to a dynamo in a molten core, the field can help place constraints of the sources of energy responsible for convection in the interior.