Experimental Investigation of Mercury’s Magma Ocean Viscosity: Implications for the Formation of Mercury’s Cumulate Mantle, Its Subsequent Dynamic Evolution, and Crustal Petrogenesis

1Megan D. Mouser,1Nicholas Dygert,2Brendan A. Anzures,1Nadine L. Grambling,3Rostislav Hrubiak,4,5Yoshio Kono,3Guoyin Shen,2Stephen W. Parman
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets) (In Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JE006946]
1Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
2Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
3HPCAT, X-ray Science Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL, USA
4Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Argonne, IL, USA
5Now at Geodynamics Research Center, Ehime University, Matsuyama, Japan
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Mercury has a compositionally diverse surface that was produced by different periods of igneous activity suggesting heterogeneous mantle sources. Understanding the structure of Mercury’s mantle formed during the planet’s magma ocean stage could help in developing a petrologic model for Mercury, and thus, understanding its dynamic history in the context of crustal petrogenesis. We present results of falling sphere viscometry experiments on late-stage Mercurian magma ocean analogue compositions conducted at the Advanced Photon Source, beamline 16-BM-B, Argonne National Laboratory. Owing to the presence of sulfur on the surface of Mercury, two compositions were tested, one with sulfur and one without. The liquids have viscosities of 0.6–3.9 (sulfur-bearing; 2.6–6.2 GPa) and 0.6–10.9 Pa·s (sulfur-free; 3.2–4.5 GPa) at temperatures of 1600–2000°C. We present new viscosity models that enable extrapolation beyond the experimental conditions and evaluate grain growth and the potential for crystal entrainment in a cooling, convecting magma ocean. We consider scenarios with and without a graphite flotation crust, suggesting endmember outcomes for Mercury’s mantle structure. With a graphite flotation crust, crystallization of the mantle would be fractional with negatively buoyant minerals sinking to form a stratified cumulate pile according to the crystallization sequence. Without a flotation crust, crystals may remain entrained in the convecting liquid during solidification, producing a homogeneous mantle. In the context of these endmember models, the surface could result from dynamical stirring or mixing of a mantle that was initially heterogeneous, or potentially from different extents of melting of a homogeneous mantle.


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