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April 30, 2010

Mercury's Soft Center

An illustration of the interior structure of the planet Mercury suggests that the metallic core extends from the center through a large fraction of the planet. Ground-based telescope observations suggest that the outer core is molten.

Researchers, who made the discovery while using a trio of ground-based telescopes to track a subtle wobbling of Mercury as it spun about its axis, have shown that careful measurements of the planet's spin (to an accuracy of one in 100,000) reveal that the its interior is decoupled from its exterior, providing strong evidence of a molten core.

This image accompanied NSF press release, "Mercury's Soft Center."

Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

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