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Posts Tagged ‘MESSENGER’

MESSENGER Spacecraft Reveals New Insights on Planet Mercury

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Thanks to the MESSENGER spacecraft, and a mission that took more than 10 years to complete, scientists now have a good picture of the solar system’s innermost planet.

On March 17, MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space Environment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) completed its one-year primary mission, orbiting Mercury, capturing nearly 100,000 images, and recording data that reveals new information about the planet’s core, topography, and the mysterious radar bright material in the permanently shadowed areas near the poles. The findings are presented in two papers published online in Science Express.

“Mercury is the last unexplored planet,” said UC Santa Barbara physics professor emeritus Stanton Peale, who devised the procedure used for detecting whether or not Mercury had a liquid core. The way Mercury was formed, he said, may show some constraints on the formation of the solar system.

For one thing, Mercury’s core is larger than expected –– almost 85 percent of the planetary radius. The Earth’s core, in contrast, is just over half of the planet’s radius. Additionally, Mercury appears to have a more complex core than Earth’s –– a solid iron sulfide layer that is now part of the mantle, which encases a liquid core, which may float on a solid inner core.

Full Story: http://www.ia.ucsb.edu/pa/display.aspx?pkey=2677

MESSENGER Results After 6 Months in Mercury Orbit

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

MESSENGER scientists will highlight the latest results on Mercury from MESSENGER observations obtained during the first six months (the first Mercury solar day) in orbit. These findings will be presented October 5 in 30 papers and posters as part of a special session of the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Nantes, Frances.

Scientists will also look ahead to MESSENGER observations still to come and to the dual-spacecraft BepiColombo mission of the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s later this decade.

“This is the first major scientific meeting at which MESSENGER orbital observations are being presented to the scientific community,” says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “As the first spacecraft to orbit our solar system’s innermost planet, MESSENGER continues to reveal new surprises every week. It is timely to sum up what we’ve learned so far and to seek feedback from our international colleagues across planetary science on our interpretations to date.”

Full Story: http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=356&Itemid=41

Mercury Not Like Other Planets MESSENGER Finds

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Only six months into its Mercury orbit, the tiny MESSENGER spacecraft has shown scientists that Mercury doesn’t conform to theory. Its surface material composition differs in important ways from both those of the other terrestrial planets and expectations prior to the MESSENGER mission, calling into question current theories for Mercury’s formation. Its magnetic field is unlike any other in the Solar System, and there are huge expanses of volcanic plains surrounding the north polar region of the planet and cover more than 6% of Mercury’s surface. These findings and other surprises are revealed in seven papers in a special section of the September 30, 2011, issue of Science.

Surface Surprises

Two of the seven papers indicate that the surface material is more like that expected if Mercury formed from similar, but less oxidized, building blocks than those that formed its terrestrial cousins, perhaps reflecting a variable proportion of ice in the initial accretionary stages of the planets. Measurements of Mercury’s surface by MESSENGER’s X-Ray and Gamma-Ray Spectrometers also reveal substantially higher abundances of sulfur and potassium than previously predicted. Both elements vaporize at relatively low temperatures, and their abundances thus rule out several popular scenarios in which Mercury experienced extreme high-temperature events early in its history.

Full Story: http://carnegiescience.edu/news/mercury_not_other_planets_messenger_finds

NASA Spacecraft Revealing More Details About Planet Mercury

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: Courtesy of Science/AAAS

Credit: Courtesy of Science/AAAS

After only six months in orbit around Mercury, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft is sending back information that has revolutionized the way scientists think about the innermost planet. Analyses of new data from the spacecraft show, among other things, new evidence that flood volcanism has been widespread on Mercury, the first close-up views of Mercury’s “hollows,” the first direct measurements of the chemical composition of Mercury’s surface, and the first global inventory of plasma ions within Mercury’s space environment.

The results are reported in a set of seven papers published in a special section of Science magazine on September 30, 2011.

“MESSENGER’s instruments are capturing data that can be obtained only from orbit,” says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “We have imaged many areas of the surface at unprecedented resolution, we have viewed the polar regions clearly for the first time, we have built up global coverage with our images and other data sets, we are mapping the elemental composition of Mercury’s surface, we are conducting a continuous inventory of the planet’s neutral and ionized exosphere, and we are sorting out the geometry of Mercury’s magnetic field and magnetosphere. And we’ve only just begun. Mercury has many more surprises in store for us as our mission progresses.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/media/Telecon20110929.html

NASA Spacecraft Reveals New Details Of Planet Mercury

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will host a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 29, to discuss new data and images from the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft conducted fifteen laps through the inner solar system for more than six years before achieving the historic orbit insertion on March 18.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_M11-207_MESSENGER_Telecon.html