Saturday, Oct 10th

Last update03:31:45 AM GMT

You are here News Science Mercury: Messenger spacecraft scans dynamic planet

Mercury: Messenger spacecraft scans dynamic planet

Messenger spacecraft scans MercuryMercury, the solar system's smallest planet, has gained a yearlong visitor from Earth - a spacecraft named Messenger that mission controllers guided successfully into a long, looping orbit around the planet Thursday night after a six-year flight across 4.9 billion miles of space.

For the first time, Messenger's polar orbit will enable Earth-bound scientists to see and analyze the planet's entire surface continuously, from distances as close as 124 miles and as far off as 9,420 miles.

Mercury is the planet closest to the sun. It holds an enormous iron core. Its rugged surface has immense craters long bombarded by meteors and comets, and ancient volcanoes that stand above flat, volcanic plains of hardened lava. Its blazing, 800-degree summers and shadowed winters at 270 degrees below zero make observing it from close up a challenging task for the mission's scientists and engineers.

And according to Sean C. Solomon of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, the mission's chief scientist, Messenger's third and final fly-by of the planet in 2009 already has shown a wildly fluctuating and mysterious magnetic field.

"It looked as though we were seeing a complete collapse of the magnetic field," he said. "This is an incredibly dynamic magnetosphere."


Most Recent Related Stories...

Trio awarded chemistry Nobel for work on DNA repair

Nobel Prize Chemistry 2015Three scientists from Sweden, the United States and Turkey were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry...

Farmer digs up woolly mammoth bones in Michigan soy field

Farmer digs up woolly mammothA farmer near Chelsea made a startling discovery Monday night: bones of a woolly mammoth possibly...

Nobel Prize for missing piece in neutrino mass puzzle

Nobel PrizeTakaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada won the Nobel Prize in physics on...

Nasa scientists find evidence of flowing water on Mars

Water on MarsLiquid water runs down canyons and crater walls over the summer months on Mars, according to...
America's # 1 Enemy
Tee Shirt
& Help Support!
TVNL Tee Shirt
Conserve our Planet
& Help Support!
Get your 9/11 & Media
Deception Dollars
& Help Support!
The Loaded Deck
The First & the Best!
The Media & Bush Admin Exposed!