How Mercury can be the most reduced terrestrial planet and still store iron in its mantle

Abstract : Mercury is notorious as the most reduced planet with the highest metal/silicate ratio, yet paradoxically data from the MESSENGER spacecraft show that its iron-poor crust is high in sulfur (up to ∼6 wt%, ∼80× Earth crust abundance) present mainly as Ca-rich sulfides on its surface. These particularities are simply impossible on the other terrestrial planets. In order to understand the role played by sulfur during the formation of Mercury, we investigated the phase relationships in Mercurian analogs of enstatite chondrite-like composition experimentally under conditions relevant to differentiation of Mercury (∼1 GPa and 1300–2000 °C). Our results show that Mg-rich and Ca-rich sulfides, which both contain Fe, crystallize successively from reduced silicate melts upon cooling below 1550 °C. As the iron concentration in the reduced silicates stays very low (≪1 wt%), these sulfides represent new host phases for both iron and sulfur in the run products. Extrapolated to Mercury, these results show that Mg-rich sulfide crystallization provides the first viable and fundamental means for retaining iron as well as sulfur in the mantle during differentiation, while sulfides richer in Ca would crystallize at shallower levels. The distribution of iron in the differentiating mantle of Mercury was mainly determined by its partitioning between metal (or troilite) and Mg–Fe–Ca-rich sulfides rather than by its partitioning between metal (or troilite) and silicates. Moreover, the primitive mantle might also be boosted in Fe by a reaction at the core mantle boundary (CMB) between Mg-rich sulfides of the mantle and FeS-rich outer core materials to produce (Fe, Mg)S. The stability of Mg–Fe–Ca-rich sulfides over a large range of depths up to the surface of Mercury would be consistent with sulfur, calcium and iron abundances measured by MESSENGER.
Document type :
Journal articles
Liste complète des métadonnées
Contributor : Danielle Thomas <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 3:38:03 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 5, 2019 - 8:21:06 PM



Valérie Malavergne, Patrick Cordier, Kevin Righter, Fabrice Brunet, Brigitte Zanda, et al.. How Mercury can be the most reduced terrestrial planet and still store iron in its mantle. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2014, 394, pp.186-197. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2014.03.028⟩. ⟨hal-00999438⟩



Record views