extraplanetary surf mercury

9 July 2008 05:05:00 AEST

Is there surf on other planets? Other bodies within our solar system or beyond? The easy answer is yes, but it all depends on your definition of surf.

If you are happy to consider atmospheric densities varying between the unprotected surfers body boiling away or resulting in a compressed globe of matter then yes. If you are happy to consider that waves can comprise of matter other than liquid H2O then yes. If you can accept that metallic hydrogen is as valid a conductor of wind and swell energy then...yes.


Any ocean this planet once possesed has long been blown away by the solar wind of our own sun. As Mercury cooled around 5 billion years ago, it's amonia ocean soon fell victim to an instant run away greenhouse effect and the terrestrial ocean soon migrated to it's atmosphere. There is likely to have been around 5 million years of reliable swell and wave activity on the planet. To put things in perspective, meanwhile on Earth the now extinct continents of Mu and Atlantis were forming. There is still ice on Mercury, at the poles of the planet, clear of the suns bombardment the temperature plumets to -183°C. Whilst at the equator it reaches a roasting 427°C which is hot enough to melt zinc. This of course means that any any one time on the surface of the planet it is a balmy 25°C - the same temperature as Bali in June.

Billions of years ago, Mercury was struck by what many scientists suspect was another now extinct protoplanet in our inner solar system. The impact was so terrific that it fractured the entire planet and obliterated the protoplanet. Mercurys atmospheric ocean was now blasted off by the solar wind, perhaps being carried to another more profitable area of the galaxy.

Antoniadi Dorsum is a current rift feature on Mercury that once would have equated to a 15 kilometre point break on a nameless extinct ocean consisting mainly of ammonia and evaporating hydrocarbons. The possibility of life existed for a short time at the poles but the lack of a significant iron core and protecting magnetic field offered no protection to the Mercurian atmosphere. With the atmosphere blasted away the oceans soon followed and Antoniadi Dorsum fell silent, a stark reminder of a wave that will never break again. Image:Terrestrial planet size comparisons.jpg

NASA: Antoniadi Dorsum, Mercury; 2008 NASA:The Terrestrial Planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars; 2005

Today Mercury is a rock, a slag heap whose surface temperatures are hot enough to evaporate lead, but once when the solar system was young there was an ocean, and on that ocean there was a wave...all that remains of a once great planetary ocean is a few hundred tonnes of frozen methane and water at the poles.

Image:Merc fig2sm.jpgImage:MESSENGER Assembly.jpg

NASA: North Pole Ice Deposits, Mercury; 1999 NASA: MESSENGER Probe Prep;2003

Image:Mercury in color c1000 700 430.png NASA: Mercury Dawn - MESSENGER Probe;2008

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