April 08, 2020

An Explanation for One of the Most Counterintuitive Examples of Planetary Topography

Two of  The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us a follow-up to a post from about 8 months ago where we noted the then recent confirmation of very broad and deep glaciers on...planet Mercury. 


"Science Babes" are actually V-Tubers Lita and Liz (of KMNZ) as drawn for their album cover by Shyugao 

While the moon has for quite a while been confirmed to have water in the permanently shadowed regions at its poles, this is assumed to mostly consist of permafrost and a few lakes as there has, thus far, been no indication of the sorts of huge exposed glaciers that have been found on Mercury. Given Mercury's proximity to the sun, one would think that Mercury would have rather less than the moon. 

However, according to Phys.Org  scientists now think they have figured out the discrepancy. 

Read the article in full, but the short version of the hypothesis is that  the intense solar bombardment across most of the temperate and tropical regions releases hydroxyl ions from the surface. These. being large in number and energetic on account of their heat collide and form water molecules which bare then scooped up by magnetic tornadoes and deposited on the poles. If  deposited in a permanently shadowed area they freeze and build up over millennia.   

All pretty straightforward...except for the part about magnetic tornadoes. 

Protons from solar winds are more plentiful on Mercury than on Earth, where a mighty magnetic field whips solar wind particles, including protons, back out into space. Mercury's field is only about 1 percent as strong, and it swirls protons down onto the surface.

"These are like big magnetic tornados, and they cause huge proton migrations across most of the surface of Mercury over time," Orlando said.

Oh. Well that explains it then .

There's more on Mercurian Glaciers here and here, and another Reader's Digest Condensed version below..

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 05:09 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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