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Nov. 3, 2009: The MESSENGER spacecraft's third flyby of the planet Mercury has given scientists, for the first time, an almost complete view of the planet's surface and revealed some dramatic changes in Mercury's comet-like tail.
"The new images remind us that Mercury continues to hold surprises," says Sean Solomon, principal investigator for the mission and director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
. Amazing. More info about the calcium/magnesium emissions HERE.
The observations also show that calcium and magnesium in the exosphere exhibit different seasonal changes than sodium--a difference that researchers do not yet fully understand. After MESSENGER enters Mercury orbit in 2011, it can make a continuous study of seasonal changes in all exospheric constituents. That will provide key information on the relative importance of the processes that generate, sustain, and modify Mercury's atmosphere.
Venus sports a giant, ion-packed tail that stretches almost far enough to tickle the Earth when the two planets are in line with the Sun...."I didn't expect to find it," says team member Marcia Neugebauer of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "It's a really strong signal, and there's no doubt it's real."