NASA scientists are getting important clues to the origin of the planet Mercury, as MESSENGER, the first spacecraft to orbit the planet, is providing ‘surprising’ data.
MESSENGER, which has been orbiting Mercury since March 18, has provided tens of thousands of images that reveal detailed features of the closest planet to the Sun and helped scientists study the surface chemical composition better, NASA said in a statement on Thursday.
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, it said.
Many of our earlier ideas are being cast aside as new observations lead to new insights. Our primary mission has another three Mercury years to run, and we can expect more surprises as our solar system's innermost planet reveals its long-held secrets, said MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
The spacecraft orbiting Mercury has captured images that show irregular pits varying in size from several hundred feet to a few miles wide on the planet’s surface and which were not seen before.
The etched appearance of these landforms is unlike anything we've seen before on Mercury or the moon, said Brett Denevi, a MESSENGER imaging team member.
See the first ever, detailed pictures of mercury below: