The current conditions found on Mercury are quite hostile against life, but a new study argues that this might not have been the case in the past. A team of researchers took into account an unusual trait of the planet, which is known as chaotic terrain. Such zones feature a landscape that is filled with random rocks, fallen craters, and peaks that are present where they shouldn’t be. So, life on Mercury could have been possible during the planet’s early history.
In the past five decades, it was thought that the chaos was produced by the massive earthquakes which took place around the planet in the aftermath of a massive asteroid impact. This theory is tackled and contradicted by the new study, which argues that many of the changes took place almost 2,000 years after the impact took place.
Shocking Study Suggests That Life on Mercury Could Have Been Possible
Another interesting discovery is represented that in some areas with chaotic terrain, the land appears to have dropped as if the layer of crust that can be found below the surface has vanished into thin air. The phenomenon may have been caused by the interaction between subsurface volatiles and the magma, which can be found below. In this case, the volatile substances transformed into gas, leading to the collapse of the terrain located above them.
This perspective opens new perspectives, especially since the presence of volatiles is needed for the existence of life, with water playing a crucial role. It is not possible to determine which of the volatiles were present on Mercury, but the researchers believe that water was one of them.
Due to the proximity to the Sun, the surface temperature can exceed 800 Fahrenheit degrees during the day while falling to minus 290 Fahrenheit degrees during the night. The lack of an atmosphere causes the extreme difference between the temperatures. However, it is estimated that reasonable temperatures could be encountered close under the surface, which could make life on Mercury possible.