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Mercury’s Surface “Painted” With Millions of Years of Comet Dust

posted: 03/30/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Mercury
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Carbon jettisoned off of passing comets may be responsible for Mercury's dark, non-reflective surface, a study from Brown University reveals. Comets disintegrate as they near Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, and the resulting dust has been accumulating on Mercury's surface for millions of years, the study concludes.

Researchers tested their theory at the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range, using sugar and other organic compounds to mimic the dust that they suspect has been pummeling Mercury for eons.

"We show that carbon acts like a stealth darkening agent," said Dr. Peter Schultz, professor emeritus of geological sciences at Brown, in a news release. "From the standpoint of spectral analysis, it's like an invisible paint."

Click here for the full news release from Brown University

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