Global contraction of planetary bodies due to despinning: Application to Mercury and Iapetus

Isamu Matsuyama, Bruce G. Bills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


We extend previous work on the global tectonic patterns generated by despinning with a self-consistent treatment of the isotropic despinning contraction that has been ignored. We provide simple analytic approximations that quantify the effect of the isotropic despinning contraction on the global shape and tectonic pattern. The isotropic despinning contraction of Mercury is ∼93m (T/1day)-2, where T is the initial rotation period. If we take into account both the isotropic contraction and the degree-2 deformations associated with despinning, the preponderance of compressional tectonic features on Mercury's surface requires an additional isotropic contraction ≳1km (T/1day)-2, presumably due to cooling of the interior and growth of the solid inner core. The isotropic despinning contraction of Iapetus is ∼9m (T/16h)-2, and it is not sensitive to the presence of a core or the thickness of the elastic lithosphere. The tectonic pattern expected for despinning, including the isotropic contraction, does not explain Iapetus' ridge. Furthermore, the ridge remains unexplained with the addition of any isotropic compressional stresses, including those generating by cooling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2010
Externally publishedYes



  • Iapetus
  • Mercury
  • Planetary dynamics
  • Rotational dynamics
  • Tectonics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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