Mercury’s surface may be littered with diamonds

(ORDO NEWS) — Simulations have shown that a long meteorite bombardment could turn up to a third of the graphite on the planet’s surface into sparkling diamond crystals.

Uncovered by a dense atmosphere and devoid of plate tectonics, Mercury remains practically defenseless against the blows of celestial bodies and retains the scars created by them for a long time.

For billions of years, meteorites have been bombarding its surface, which today is densely covered with craters. The energy of these collisions is enough for a large part of the carbon present there in the form of graphite to be transformed into diamond crystals.

On Earth, such a transformation occurs in the bowels, at a depth of at least 150 kilometers, where the temperature and pressure reach enormous values.

However, for a short time they are able to rise to the required values ​​​​and during impacts of meteorites. It is this mechanism that can work on Mercury. American geologist Kevin Cannon spoke about this at the 53rd International Conference on Lunar and Planetary Science (LPSC 2022 ).

The surface of the planet closest to the Sun outwardly resembles that of the moon, it is also dotted with craters, plateaus and vast plains, similar to lunar seas.

In ancient times, it was abundantly flooded with lava, so the bark is rich in sulfur compounds and volcanic minerals. However, some areas look much darker and contain a lot of carbon in the form of ordinary black graphite – it may have precipitated and crystallized from the lava as it cooled.

Subsequently, these areas were subjected to meteorite bombardment, and Kevin Cannon conducted computer simulations of such processes.

The model suggested that Mercury’s 25-kilometer crust contained a 300-meter-thick layer of graphite. She also showed that under the impact of meteorites over 4.5 billion years, up to a third of this amount could be transformed into diamonds.

According to Cannon’s calculations, the planet can contain an order of magnitude more such crystals than the Earth – 16 quadrillion tons.

The model did not take into account the processes associated with the destruction of diamonds under the same meteorite impacts. However, according to Cannon, they could not destroy a significant part of the diamonds: their melting point exceeds 4000 ° C, and they are able to survive most of these tests.

The scientist adds that the calculations can be checked quite soon: in 2025, the BepiColombo probe will arrive in Mercury’s orbit, which can explore the planet up close. If there are indeed enough diamonds on the surface, he will distinguish this signal in the infrared spectrum.


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