Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, rotates so slowly that one day there lasts about 59 earth days. The planet has only three days in each of its years, and the sunny side is so hot that lead would easily melt on its surface.
Mercury possesses unique characteristics, and new data from the Messenger spacecraft are providing clues to its origin. But those clues point in the opposite direction to what astronomers expected.
In a Q&A with Space.com, Messenger’s principal investigator, Sean Solomon, said he had long been interested in how Mercury acquired its peculiarities, including a huge core that is “twice as large a fraction [of its mass] as Earth or Venus or Mars.”1 A huge iron core would account for Mercury’s tremendous density, but according to naturalistic origins models, “Mercury can’t be anywhere near as dense as it actually is.”2
Space.com reported that the Messenger data are “delivering some tantalizing surprises,” among which are “surprisingly high levels of sulfur at the planet’s surface.”3 But assuming that the planet formed naturally and close to the then-forming sun, lighter-weight elements like sulfur should have been “lost in space,” Solomon told Reuters.4 And yet Mercury has “high levels” of sulfur.
In the Space.com Q&A, Solomon commented, “I’m now fascinated by the magnetosphere.”1And it is small wonder that he is, because for many years the “dynamo theory” (which has since been shown to be false) was the only explanation offered for magnetic fields on rocky planets that are supposed to be billions of years old. However, this theory requires a molten magma core. And Mercury is so small—only slightly larger than the moon—that its core should have cooled into a solid millions of years ago.2 Therefore, it should not have a magnetic field at all, let alone one that is steadily decaying on a thousands-of-years trajectory.5 And yet it does….
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