With the recent flybys of the MESSENGER probe interesting aspects of the surface have been definitively identified as volcanic in origin. Images of Mercury have shown evidence of a variety of volcanic features. Within the Caloris basin, wide and relatively flat shield volcanoes (comparable to the ones seen on the Moon) have been discussed by Kerber et al. (2009) with evidence of pyroclastic deposits surrounding one of these shield volcanoes. These formations provide more than just evidence of volcanism on Mercury but also that volatiles are (were) in existence within the interior. The pyroclastic deposits are hypothesised to have been formed by the equivalent of a Hawaiian lava fountain eruption. The shield volcanoes were formed by effusive volcanism in the form of lava flows. There is also further evidence of volcanism from satellite imagery in several of the Mercurian plains. Pit craters have been identified due to their steeper walls than the ones formed by impact craters. This provides some evidence of magma chambers, it is surmised that these features formed in a similar manner to caldera collapse on Earth.
Mercury orbits the sun at an average of ~58 million km and has a radius of ~2400 km.
With the entry into orbit of MESSENGER the volcanic history of Mercury will start to unravel! Still to look forward to over the next couple of weeks in my brief planetary volcanism discussions - Venus, Mars, Io and a discussion of cryo-volcanism!
Journal articles read in relation to this topic and which may be of interest:
Kerber et al. (2009). Explosive volcanic eruptions on Mercury: Eruption conditions, magma volatile content, and implications for interior volatile abundances. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 285, pp. 263–271
Head et al. (2009). Volcanism on Mercury: Evidence from the first MESSENGER flyby for extrusive and explosive activity and the volcanic origin of plains. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 285, pp. 227–242
Gillis-Davis et al. (2009). Pit-floor craters on Mercury: Evidence of near-surface igneous activity. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 285, pp. 243–250
In other volcano news, Etna is continuing its activity, with strombolian/hawaiian activity occurring over the past few days. Ruapehu (New Zealand) sustains its signs of unrest with increased CO2 degassing and maintained high crater lake temperatures.
Its taken me a while to get up and running but will now hopefully start to post more regularly.