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Brilliant New Images of Mercury From 1st Year of Orbit: (98% Mapped by Messenger Spacecraft)

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posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 08:26 AM

Crescent Mercury. This image, taken May 24, shows off Mercury's southern hemisphere. Once a week, Messenger takes an edge shot like this one to provide information about Mercury's shape.

Since becoming the first spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury on March 17, Messenger (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) has sent back more than 20,000 high-resolution images, enough to include Mercury in Google Earth. The orbiter's seven science instruments are also probing Mercury's chemical composition, topography, magnetic field and energetic particles in the planet's tenuous, ever-shifting atmosphere.

More Ice than the Moon

One of Mercury's most exciting mysteries is whether the solar system's hottest planet can support frozen water. 20 years ago, radar data showed bright deposits that scientists interpreted as water ice hiding deep in permanently shadowed craters at Mercury's poles, similar to ice deposits recently confirmed on the moon.

Confusing Composition

This image shows the northern plains in enhanced color, highlighting the differences between eight color filters to make their variations easier to pick out. The variations in color give clues to the chemical composition of Mercury's surface. Other instruments aboard Messenger, like the X-ray Spectrometer and Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer, can probe surface composition more directly by measuring the abundance of key elements. These measurements are helping rule out certain theories of how Mercury formed, like the idea that the sun stripped layers of rock from the infant planet's surface. Mercury may have been Earth-sized when it formed, but lost material in a cataclysmic collision with another proto-planet.

What Happens in Degas

This image compares Mariner 10's view of the crater Degas (at left) to Messenger's high-resolution, colored view. Degas is 32 miles wide and located in Mercury's northern hemisphere. The new image shows that the crater's floor is coated in rock that melted in the heat and pressure of the impact that formed the crater. The melted rock fractured as it cooled, leaving cracks along the crater floor.


Wow, be sure to check out the main article site for more pics and info.

LOVE IT. I think the more we get out and about the more painful clearer it becomes that we humans maybe the only smart ones around. Which would suck in some ways but pretty good in a lot of other ways.

I think one thing can be agreed on, we won't be moving to any of our planets anytime soon, if ever. But, sure great to see what they are like and to knon how they were formed etc.

Just looking at the pics you can tell all these planets took one hell of a beating over time. I wonder what the earth would look like all stipped of us and life. Then I end up asking How in the Hell did we begin.. and it starts all over again.

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 08:30 AM
You know,the sad part is they could replace it with the images of the " dark " side of the moon and people would still buy it. I know those pictures are probably ligit.

But all these pictures look the same. I for one am not realy convinced these are real pictures

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 09:42 AM
reply to post by Cyanhide

Well, I guess some one is in need of the weekend.

But, you do bring up an interesting point. How would one know the pic is not something other than what they claim it to be.

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 10:02 AM
I am still waiting for the pictures of secret bases on Mercury to show up

but a better source than Wired, is JPL's own website for messenger. Here you can find all information on Messenger.

edit on 17/6/2011 by Hellhound604 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 10:33 AM
Here is also the latest news from Messenger :

"MESSENGER Data from Mercury Orbit Confirm Theories, Offer Surprises
After nearly three months in orbit about Mercury, MESSENGER’s payload is providing a wealth of new information about the planet closest to the Sun, as well as a few surprises.

The spacecraft entered orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011, becoming the first spacecraft ever to do so. Its instruments are performing the first complete reconnaissance of the planet’s geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment.

Tens of thousands of images of major features on the planet — previously seen only at comparatively low resolution — are now available in sharp focus. Measurements of the chemical composition of Mercury’s surface are providing important clues to the origin of the planet and its geological history. Maps of the planet’s topography and magnetic field are revealing new clues to Mercury’s interior dynamical processes. And scientists now know that bursts of energetic particles in Mercury’s magnetosphere are a continuing product of the interaction of Mercury’s magnetic field with the solar wind.

“MESSENGER has passed a number of milestones just this week,” offers MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “We completed our first perihelion passage from orbit on Sunday, our first Mercury year in orbit on Monday, our first superior solar conjunction from orbit on Tuesday, and our first orbit-correction maneuver on Wednesday. Those milestones provide important context to the continuing feast of new observations that MESSENGER has been sending home on nearly a daily basis.”

A Surface Revealed in Unprecedented Detail

As part of MESSENGER’s global imaging campaign, the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) is acquiring global monochrome and stereo base maps with an average resolution of 250 meters per pixel and a global color base map at an average of 1.2 kilometer per pixel. These base maps are providing the first global look at the planet under optimal viewing conditions.

Orbital images reveal broad expanses of smooth plains near Mercury’s north pole. Flyby images from MESSENGER and from Mariner 10 in the 1970s indicated that smooth plains may be important near the north pole, but much of the territory was viewed at unfavorable imaging conditions.

MESSENGER’s new orbital images show that the plains are likely among the largest expanses of volcanic deposits on Mercury, with thicknesses of up to several kilometers. The broad expanses of plains confirm that volcanism shaped much of Mercury’s crust and continued through much of Mercury’s history, despite an overall contractional stress state that tended to inhibit the extrusion of volcanic material onto the surface.

Among the fascinating features seen in flyby images of Mercury were bright, patchy deposits on some crater floors. Without high-resolution images to obtain a closer look, these features remained only a curiosity. New targeted MDIS observations at up to 10 meters per pixel reveal these patchy deposits to be clusters of rimless, irregular pits varying in size from hundreds of meters to several kilometers. These pits are often surrounded by diffuse halos of higher-reflectance material, and they are found associated with central peaks, peak rings, and rims of craters.

“The etched appearance of these landforms is unlike anything we’ve seen before on Mercury or the Moon,” says Brett Denevi, a staff scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., and a member of the MESSENGER imaging team. “We are still debating their origin, but they appear to have a relatively young age and may suggest a more abundant than expected volatile component in Mercury’s crust.”

Mercury’s Surface Composition

The X-Ray Spectrometer (XRS) — one of two instruments on MESSENGER designed to measure the abundances of many key elements on Mercury — has made several important discoveries since the orbital mission began. The magnesium/silicon, aluminum/silicon, and calcium/silicon ratios averaged over large areas of the planet’s surface show that, unlike the surface of the Moon, Mercury’s surface is not dominated by feldspar-rich rocks.

XRS observations have also revealed substantial amounts of sulfur at Mercury’s surface, lending support to prior suggestions from ground-based telescopic spectral observations that sulfide minerals are present. This discovery suggests that the original building blocks from which Mercury was assembled may have been less oxidized than those that formed the other terrestrial planets, and it has potentially important implications for understanding the nature of volcanism on Mercury.

MESSENGER’s Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer has detected the decay of radioactive isotopes of potassium and thorium and has allowed a determination of the bulk abundances of these elements. “The abundance of potassium rules out some prior theories for Mercury’s composition and origin,” says Larry Nittler, a staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “Moreover, the inferred ratio of potassium to thorium is similar to that of other terrestrial planets, suggesting that Mercury is not highly depleted in volatiles, contrary to some prior ideas about its origin.”

Mapping of Mercury’s Topography and Magnetic Field

MESSENGER’s Mercury Laser Altimeter has been systematically mapping the topography of Mercury’s northern hemisphere. After more than two million laser-ranging observations, the planet’s large-scale shape and profiles of geological features are both being revealed in high detail. The north polar region of Mercury, for instance, is a broad area of low elevations.

The overall range in topographic heights seen to date exceeds 9 kilometers.
Two decades ago, Earth-based radar images showed that near both Mercury’s north and south poles are deposits characterized by high radar backscatter. These polar deposits are thought to consist of water ice and perhaps other ices preserved on the cold, permanently shadowed floors of high-latitude impact craters. MESSENGER’s altimeter is testing this idea by measuring the floor depths of craters near Mercury’s north pole. To date, the depths of craters hosting polar deposits are consistent with the idea that those deposits occupy areas in permanent shadow.

The geometry of Mercury’s internal magnetic field can potentially discriminate among theories for how the field is generated. An important finding is that Mercury’s magnetic equator, determined on successive orbits as the point where the direction of the internal magnetic field is parallel to the spin axis of the planet, is well north of the planet’s geographic equator. The best-fitting internal dipole magnetic field is located about 0.2 Mercury radii, or 480 km, northward of the planet’s center. The dynamo mechanism in Mercury’s molten, metallic outer core responsible for generating the planet’s magnetic field therefore has a strong north-south asymmetry.

As a result of this north-south asymmetry, the geometry of magnetic field lines is different in Mercury’s north and south polar regions. In particular, the magnetic “polar cap” where field lines are open to the interplanetary medium is much larger near the south pole. This geometry implies that the south polar region is much more exposed than in the north to charged particles heated and accelerated by solar wind–magnetosphere interactions. The impact of those charged particles onto Mercury’s surface contributes both to the generation of the planet’s tenuous atmosphere and to the “space weathering” of surface materials, both of which should have a north-south asymmetry given the different magnetic field configurations at the two poles.

Energetic Particle Events at Mercury

One of the major discoveries made by Mariner 10 during the first of its three flybys of Mercury in 1974 were bursts of energetic particles in Mercury’s Earth-like magnetosphere. Four bursts of particles were observed on that flyby, so it was puzzling that no such strong events were detected by MESSENGER during any of its three flybys of the planet in 2008 and 2009.

With MESSENGER now in near-polar orbit about Mercury, energetic events are being seen almost like clockwork, says MESSENGER Project Scientist Ralph McNutt, of APL. “While varying in strength and distribution, bursts of energetic electrons — with energies from 10 kiloelectron volts (keV) to more than 200 keV — have been seen in most orbits since orbit insertion,” McNutt says. “The Energetic Particle Spectrometer has shown these events to be electrons rather than energetic ions, and to occur at moderate latitudes. The latitudinal location is entirely consistent with the events seen by Mariner 10.”

With Mercury’s smaller magnetosphere and with the lack of a substantial atmosphere, both the generation of these energetic electrons and their distribution are different than at Earth. One candidate mechanism for the generation of these energetic electrons is the formation of a “double layer,” a plasma structure with large electric fields along the local magnetic field. Another is induction brought about by rapid changes in the magnetic field, a process that follows the principle used in generators on Earth to produce electric power. Which of these mechanisms, if either, predominates in the acceleration of energetic electrons will be the subject of study over the coming months."

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 10:53 AM
You can tell at a glance how different Mercury is from the Moon. The craters have a different ratio of depth-to-width; appearing shallower in proportion to their diameter on Mercury than they do on the Moon. That's because Mercury's gravity is more than twice that of the Moon.

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 10:54 AM

Originally posted by Cyanhide
You know,the sad part is they could replace it with the images of the " dark " side of the moon and people would still buy it. I know those pictures are probably ligit.


I think many fail to realize the reasons behind why they look so similar. These images of Mercury look very similar to our moon for good reasons. It shows us just how much comet/asteroids/meteorite impacts have occurred in our solar system during it's lifetime thus far. Earth would look just as pitted and cratered if it wasn't for the fact that Earth is a living planet where erosion and weathering takes place, that and also the fact that Earth's surface is covered mostly by oceans which swallows most of the incoming space debris and hides many impact scars.

But to find ICE?

I've always envisioned Mercury to be a glowing hot heavily volcanic looking place.

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 10:54 AM
edit on 17-6-2011 by SLAYER69 because: sorry double post

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 03:11 PM
reply to post by Hellhound604

Wow, thanks for the info.

I don't know if I would post it all. Maybe just the link etc.

But, all good and a great story.

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 10:24 PM
here is the link to the UK paper's video version


posted on Jun, 18 2011 @ 02:32 AM

But, you do bring up an interesting point. How would one know the pic is not something other than what they claim it to be?

Because, amazing as it may seem to the vast majority of ATS members, NASA and JPL are not part of some vast conspiracy to deceive the public.

posted on Jun, 18 2011 @ 07:19 AM
reply to post by Mogget

Pssst, I know. just playing along.

I like to encourage participation.

posted on Jun, 18 2011 @ 08:04 AM
reply to post by Cyanhide

You know,the sad part is they could replace it with the images of the " dark " side of the moon and people would still buy it. I know those pictures are probably ligit.

But all these pictures look the same. I for one am not realy convinced these are real pictures

And exactly why would anyone want to do that?
Exactly what would 'they' have to gain?

posted on Jun, 19 2011 @ 07:54 AM
reply to post by Freeborn

That is the ultimate question for the "fake moon and/or space exploration".

What and or who gains?

A lot of money spent for a long time hoax.

Not saying some aspects were doctored etc for effect etc

posted on Jun, 19 2011 @ 08:32 AM
Doctored in what way for what effects? If it is to color single wavelength signatures then that would be it, to color as if we view the images in our full spectrum, to expand the spectrum to more clearly see the geology of the different mineral deposits, applying a broad range of color to differentiate the subtile mineral signatures more clearly to examine any patters or sources of the deposits. That would be the only doctoring, because all the raw data is grayscale images of different wavelengths.

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