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Volcanism and Tectonism across the Inner Solar System


This is an important yet challenging publication that, for non-experts like me, requires a lot of lateral investigation.  There are unexpected rewards.

The book contains a valuable 57-page overview followed by 27 geological articles - all fully referenced. The overview is a welcome explanatory primer for the articles that follow. Four editors assisted by 35 reviewers put all this together. Given the multitude of authors (111), and their diverse mother tongues, the text is surprisingly clean.  The false colour imagery is truly ‘out of this world’.

The articles originated from European Geosciences Union General Assembly sessions held between 2010 and 2014. Published in 2015, the sessions are an opportune time for these specialists to update their thoughts on enigmatic Mercury. Early imagery is now available from the Messenger probe that orbited the planet between 2011 and 2015. Surface coverage is virtually complete and the improved imagery (Mariner 2 flew past way back in 1974-75) has brought more certainty to some hotly debated issues. 

Smooth plains that are probably either pyroclastic or igneous in origin are now shown to cover 27% of the planet surface.  The largest area, the Northern Volcanic Plain is, thought to have formed about 3.75Ga ago in a single voluminous event with extensive melting of Mercury’s mantle. XRS evidence suggests a magnesium-rich basaltic composition. Important geological features of Mars, Venus, Earth, the Moon, and the inner Asteroids are discussed in other papers. 

I needed an up-to-date geological dictionary to check unfamiliar terminology and found some interesting information in (dare I say it?) Wikipedia. Names add charm, and Mercury is not only home to blind thrusts and wrinkle ridges but a domicile for earthly greats like Rembrandt, Beethoven, and Tolstoj (all craters).  It is an astonishing though irrelevant fact that there are now 26 International Astronomical Union-approved goddess names for Venusian coronas that start with the letter A. They include the Quechua potato goddess, Asamama. Quirky. 

By far the most salient point is that this book is available in digital form with the option of high- or low-image resolution.  The former is preferable - not that I can shed greater light on the underlying issues - but because I can look deep into an alien landscape. The detail will guarantee further delving on sleepless nights.

Reviewed by David Edwards

Volcanism and Tectonism across the Inner Solar System by Platz et al., 2015  Geological Society Special Publication #401 ISBN 978-1-86239-632-6 448pp. 

List price: £ 130.00 Fellow's price: £ 65.00 Other societies price: £ 78.00 W: