Saturday, July 05, 2008

Missing: Mercury's Iron Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas

Messenger, a space probe by NASA responsible for de-mystifying secrets of the "first rock" from the Sun, has unfortunately informed scientists that the planet contains very little iron within its crust.

( "For example, according to our color data the Caloris impact basin is completely filled with smooth plains material that appears volcanic in origin," Robinson explains. "In shape and form these deposits are very similar to the mare basalt flows on the Moon. But unlike the Moon, Mercury's smooth plains are low in iron, and thus represent a relatively unusual rock type."[...]

The low-reflectance material is particularly enigmatic, says Robinson. "It's an important and widespread rock that occurs deep in the crust as well as at the surface, yet it has very little ferrous iron in its silicate minerals."

That, he says, makes it unusual. "You expect to find low-reflectance volcanic rocks having a high abundance of iron-bearing silicate minerals, but that's not the case here." One possible solution, he says, is that iron is actually present but invisible to MESSENGER's spectrometers because it's hidden within the chemical structure of minerals such as ilmenite.

While this new information does not completely rule out that iron (in some form) exists upon the Sun baked world's surface, it may rule out vast quantities within easy reach of humanity.

Further inspection of Mercury (in much greater detail) may be needed in order to locate "abundant spots" of iron, although humanity may still find some use for ilmenite (which can be used as a base for paints, paper and plastics).

If Mercury is found to be lacking in iron (or if it it is extremely difficult to export of the world), humanity could always scour the surface for helium-3 (perhaps with the help of a "few volunteers").

(Image Credit: NASA)

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

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~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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