Environment

NASA Messenger data reveals Mercury’s magnetic field is four billion years old: Study

NASA Messenger data reveals Mercury’s magnetic field is four billion years old: Study

NASA Messenger data reveals Mercury’s magnetic field is four billion years old: Study

This was a mystery that many dreamt to solve. Now it seems that the mystery has finally been demystified.

A latest study suggests that magnetic field of planet Mercury was actually formed for the first time some 4 billion years ago. The findings were revealed by none other than the NASA’s Messenger spacecraft.

It is needless to say that astronomers and space enthusiasts are very excited by the latest finding. The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (Messenger) spacecraft was sent to Mercury in August 2004, arriving at the planet seven years later. At least for four years the spaceship analyzed the planet for four years, three years longer than its planned mission life of a year.

Photo courtesy: Chattanooga Times Free Press

Photo courtesy: Chattanooga Times Free Press

The study showed that just like the Earth, Mercury also possess a magnetic field, albeit a much weaker one than that which surrounds our own planet. According to astronomers, this electromagnetic feature is generated by the movement of liquid iron in the core of the innermost planet, similar to the process that occurs within the Earth.

Astronomers have concluded after thorough study that Mercury is believed to be some 4.4 billion years old. Messenger spaceship’s data suggests the magnetic field of that planet first formed somewhere between 3.7 and 3.9 billion years in the past.

Researchers are of the opinion that this feature was found by a magnetometer aboard the long-lived observatory, as it got closer and closer to the surface of its adopted world during the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. The magnetism recorded by Messenger in rocks on the planet’s crust was too weak to record from a higher orbit.

While talking about the finding Catherine Johnson, a planetary scientist with the University of British Columbia says, “The mission was originally planned to last one year; no one expected it to go for four. The science from these recent observations is really interesting and what we’ve learned about the magnetic field is just the first part of it”. It is notable that both Venus and Mars lack a magnetic field, but research suggests the Red Planet may have possessed one over 3 billion years in the past.

While detailing it further she goes on to add, “Magnetized rocks record the history of the magnetic field of a planet, a key ingredient in understanding its evolution. We already know that around 3.7 to 3.9 billion years ago Mercury was volcanically and tectonically active. We now know that it had a magnetic field at around that time”.

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