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GEOLOGY returns to Naica Cave, Mexico, and extends its reach to Mercury
Date:12/21/2012

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Extension and contraction within volcanically buried impact craters and basins on Mercury

Thomas R. Watters et al., Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC 20560, USA. Posted online 15 Nov. 2012; http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/G33725.1.

The innermost planet of our Solar System is generally crisscrossed by contractional landforms that formed as the interior cooled and surface area contracted. Contraction has been so dominant on Mercury that landforms produced by extension or horizontal stretching of crustal material had not been previously documented outside the interiors of large impact basins. High-resolution images obtained by the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft in orbit about Mercury reveal extensional troughs or graben encircled by contractional wrinkle ridges on the largest expanses of volcanic plains. These systems of tectonic landforms, unlike any seen elsewhere, are associated with ghost craters -- impact craters that were flooded and buried by lava flows. The special arrangement of wrinkle ridges and graben in ghost craters on Mercury likely resulted from a combination of extension generated by cooling and thermal contraction of thick lava flow units and global contraction from cooling of the planet's interior. The rapid accumulation of highly fluid lava flows into thick cooling units on a planet undergoing a high rate of global contraction may be why these systems of tecto
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Contact: Kea Giles
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Geological Society of America
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