Low-altitude magnetic field measurements by MESSENGER reveal Mercury's ancient crustal field

Catherine L. Johnson, Roger J. Phillips, Michael E. Purucker, Brian J. Anderson, Paul K. Byrne, Brett W. Denevi, Joshua M. Feinberg, Steven A. Hauck, James W. Head, Haje Korth, Peter B. James, Erwan Mazarico, Gregory A. Neumann, Lydia C. Philpott, Matthew A. Siegler, Nikolai A. Tsyganenko, Sean C. Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Magnetized rocks can record the history of the magnetic field of a planet, a key constraint for understanding its evolution. From orbital vector magnetic field measurements of Mercury taken by the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft at altitudes below 150 kilometers, we have detected remanent magnetization in Mercury's crust.We infer a lower bound on the average age of magnetization of 3.7 to 3.9 billion years. Our findings indicate that a global magnetic field driven by dynamo processes in the fluid outer core operated early in Mercury's history. Ancient field strengths that range from those similar to Mercury's present dipole field to Earth-like values are consistent with the magnetic field observations and with the low iron content of Mercury's crust inferred from MESSENGER elemental composition data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-895
Number of pages4
Issue number6237
StatePublished - May 22 2015


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