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29-Sep-2016 16:19

Observations by MESSENGER’s Magnetometer showed that Mercury’s magnetic field is offset along the planetary spin axis by about 20% of the planet’s radius.Relatively high abundances of other volatile elements, including sulfur (right side of the animation), sodium, and chlorine, provide further evidence that Mercury is volatile-rich.The high sulfur contents combined with low amounts of iron on the planet's surface additionally indicate that Mercury formed from materials with less oxygen than those that formed the other terrestrial planets, providing an important constraint on theories for the formation of all of the planets in the inner Solar System.MESSENGER measurements have revealed that Mercury is surprisingly abundant in volatile elements that evaporate at moderately high temperatures, ruling out many of the models for its formation and early history that had been proposed before the mission.Because potassium is much more volatile than thorium, the ratio of the abundances of these two elements is a sensitive measure of thermal processes that fractionate elements by volatility.MESSENGER has provided multiple lines of evidence that Mercury’s polar regions host water ice.

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For Mercury, as seen in the first graph, this ratio is similar to that for other terrestrial planets at greater distances from the Sun but significantly higher than that for the Moon, which lost potassium during the giant impact that led to its formation.Particularly high potassium concentrations were observed by MESSENGER's Gamma-Ray Spectrometer at high northern latitudes, as illustrated in the abundance map on the left side of the animation.