Mercury has almost no boulders on its surface and we’re not sure why

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The planet Mercury

The planet Mercury, as seen by the Messenger mission

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Mercury has barely any boulders. Rocks of at least 5 metres across are far less abundant on the planet’s surface than expected, and figuring out why could help us understand conditions on the closest planet to the sun.

Because Mercury is extremely difficult to reach with a spacecraft, we have few high-resolution images of its surface, most of them from NASA’s Messenger mission, which orbited the planet from 2011 to 2015. Mikhail Kreslavsky at the University of California, Santa Cruz, …

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