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astro120811 - Astronomy December 8th 2011 Inside the...

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Astronomy December 8 th , 2011 Inside the Terrestrial Worlds The metal core of Mercury is remarkably large compared to its crust. Astronomers hypothesize that much of the crust of Mercury was removed in a giant impact during the heavy bombardment period. Unusually, the Sun is not an important heating source in terrestrial planet interiors. Sunlight only penetrates a few meters into the surface of the Earth. Heating the Terrestrial Worlds 1. Accretion a. Gravitational potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. b. Kinetic energy is converted to thermal energy. c. Supplies all the heat at the beginning. 2. Differentiation a. ONLY occurs when the interior is liquid . Terrestrial interiors were initially liquid, but they quickly cooled and solidified. b. Light materials rise to the surface. c. Dense materials fall to the core, converting gravitational potential energy to thermal energy. 3. Radioactive decay a. Supplies heat throughout the planet’s life.
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