A new study provides insight into the origin of a high-magnesium region observed on Mercury. While in orbit, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft spotted a region where there was a higher abundance of magnesium relative to the rest of the planet’s surface. This area was dubbed the ‘high-magnesium region,’ and roughly corresponds to a depression that some scientists thought might be the remnants of an impact event.

Researchers supported by the Exobiology & Evolutionary Biology element of the NASA Astrobiology Program used a model to simulate what such a crater would look like on Mercury. The results indicated that the ‘high-magnesium region’ is more likely due to high-temperature volcanism than an impact event.

The study, “Evaluating an impact origin for Mercury’s high-magnesium region,” was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.