Professor Simon Cuthbert, AGH University of Science and Technology, Krakow
Mercury has been recognised as a “wanderer” of the night sky since Babylonian times, but its proximity to the Sun has made it a difficult body to study. The situation has changed dramatically since the recent MESSENGER mission, which has revealed a fascinating and distinctive member of the family of terrestrial planets.
Dubbed the “iron planet” it has a huge metallic core and a relatively thin rocky mantle. In some ways the geology and landforms of Mercury resemble Earth’s Moon with its heavily cratered surface, extensive smooth lava plains and lack of an atmosphere, but it is unusually dark – a possible vestige of a primordial crust made of graphite! Tectonic features suggest that the entire planet has shrunk by several kilometres since it originally solidified.
This presentation will explore current knowledge about this rather uncelebrated planet and consider how its curious nature might be inherited from the special environmental conditions close to the Sun during the very earliest history of the Solar System. A look ahead to the upcoming Bepi-Colombo mission will anticipate some exciting new insights about this mysterious “pink dot”.
Simon is long-standing member of the society and was until recently based at the University of the West of Scotland. He is now Assistant Professor in the Department of Mineralogy, Petrography and Geochemistry, at the University of Science and Technology, in Krakow, Poland.
This lecture will be held as a Zoom meeting. Society members for whom we have email addresses will be sent an invitation a few days before the event. If you are a member but are not on our email list, or a non-member who would like to join the meeting, please email the society’s meetings secretary to request an invitation.