Mercury’s Sufferingly Sulf’rous Surface

The rugged terrain surrounding Mercury’s Vivaldi basin may be rich in sulfur

Named for the 17th-century Venetian composer, the southern half of Mercury’s Vivaldi basin is seen in this image acquired on August 26 by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. The 213-km (132-mile) -wide crater’s smooth floor is contrasted by the incredibly rugged terrain beyond its outermost ring — a result of the ejected material that was flung out from the impact site and emphasized by the low angle of illumination.

Recent findings from the MESSENGER mission have revealed variations in Mercury’s surface composition due to volcanism that occurred at different times, as well as a surprising concentration of elements rich in magnesium and sulfur — much more, in fact, than any of the other terrestrial planets.

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