The Big Picture: Mercury

By Phil Plait | June 9, 2009 8:30 am

Yesterday, The Boston Globe’s feature The Big Picture features shots from the Mercury MESSENGER probe. Regular readers know I love this little spacecraft, and have written about it many times. TBP has some great images, including this one:

Kuiper crater on Mercury from MESSENGER

That’s Kuiper crater on Mercury, and if you showed it to me with no advance notice I’d swear it was Tycho on our own Moon. Mercury and the Moon are very similar in many ways, in fact, but Mercury is still holding back a lot of secrets from us. Until March, 2011, that is, which is when MESSENGER will fall into orbit around Mercury. I expect then we’ll get lots of answers to our questions… and find we have a lot more questions. That’s where the fun of science is!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (29)

  1. “fall into orbit” – clever! :D

  2. Stone Age Scientist

    Hi Phil, I was looking for a picture of The Spider on the other page. I believe TBP missed it out.

    The Spider

  3. IVAN3MAN

    @ Larian LeQuella,

    You would have thought that Dr. Phil Plait would have used more technical terminology, such as:

    Sometime on March, 2011, MESSENGER will perform a deceleration manoeuvre and achieve orbit insertion around the planet Mercury. :cool:

  4. @IVAN3MAN

    On March, 2011, MESSENGER will perform a deceleration manoeuvre and achieve orbit insertion around the planet Mercury.

    Sounds kinky.

  5. IVAN3MAN

    Todd W.:

    Sounds kinky.

    You, sir, have a dirty mind. :-)

  6. T.E.L.

    Will modify its dynamical parameters such that the set of all allowed spacecraft-planet mass-centers will lie upon an ellipse having the spacecraft-planet-Sun mass-center at one focus.

  7. SMo

    Lovely picture marred only by the expanding Templeton Foundation ad. Yuck.

  8. It done burn its engines real good so as to park round that big rock down yonder near t’the sun.

  9. Stone Age Scientist

    Ivan3Man, I’m guilty as well. I was skimming through the comments and thought your line read as “…the messenger will perform a manoeuvre of insertion…” :mrgreen:

    I do have to cut down on porn. I’ll put this one down on my next New Year’s Resolution. Thank you.

  10. kikilis

    Holy Silversword! Now thats a blast it was…
    BTW did ya see the vid of messenger leaving Earth? http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/the_mission/images/flyby_images/mdis_depart.mpeg

  11. Gary Ansorge

    Clicked on the picture, Phil and I must say, those pics are astounding in their clarity and fine detail.

    I’m really looking forward to the 2011 insertion. I wonder if we’ll be able to observe pyroclastic flows of lead, since it melts at 600.1 K and max temp on Mercury is around 700 K. What a cool image that would be,,,rivers of molten lead.

    Gary 7

  12. IVAN3MAN

    @ #6. T.E.L.,

    Like, er… what brand of coffee do you drink? :-)

    @ #9. Stone Age Scientist,

    No coffee for you; it’s a cold shower that you need. :-)

  13. AJ

    @ SMo: expanding ad for what?

    Oh, wait, I use Adblock Plus on Firefox. *That’s* why I dunno what you’re talking about, I suppose :-D

    and @ Phil: yeah, “fall into orbit” sounds odd coming from you. C’mon, you of all people know how this works!

  14. American Voyager

    I had to laugh at your Tycho comment, Phil. We think alike. My first thoughts before reading your post were, “What a great picture of Copernicus!”. LOL!!

  15. 9. Stone Age Scientist Says:

    I do have to cut down on porn. I’ll put this one down on my next New Year’s Resolution. Thank you.

    Makes me wonder what you’ll be doing the next six months or so.

    ;)

    J/P=?

  16. Rob Jase

    Aha! Notice how autism rates have gone up as this craft neared Mercury, surely this is no coincedence!

  17. Stone Age Scientist

    To Ivan3Man @ 12,

    No coffee for you; it’s a cold shower that you need.

    Thanks, I’ll take your advice. :)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    To John Paradox @ #19

    Makes me wonder what you’ll be doing the next six months or so.

    Your wondering makes the matter worse. Stop wondering and it will be non-existent. :)

  18. Flying sardines

    Just when I’ve written on another thread that we haven’t had anything on Mercury here for ages what do I see when scrolling down a little? This that’s what! ;-) [/blushes.]

    Thanks BA & no that’s not sarcastic ..well not entirely! ;-)
    I do like my Mercury news. Really. :-)

    BA : “Mercury and the Moon are very similar in many ways,

    If we could somehow use a giant “Trek-style transporter” and switch Mercury for Luna – how long do you reckon it’d take folks to notice? ;-)

    (Assuming of course we compensate for the gravitational effects w Mercury’s higher mass – & that we made sure we made the teleport switch at a time when nobody was looking! ;-) )

  19. Plutonium Being From Pluto

    The BA : Regular readers know I love this little spacecraft

    Kinky but I’m afraid with MESSENGER flying round Mercury and the BA stuck here on Earth it is, alas, a doomed romance with you two lovebirds separated forever! ;-)
    (Yes I too have a dirty mind!)

    @ #22 : Or we could also try that experiment with Pluto methinks bringing us Plutoneans into a handy position to mass-drive some rocks down at the IAU HQ! That’ll learn ‘em! ;-)

  20. Mark Hansen

    kuhnigget, I like your descriptive style for orbital mechanics. Or to better suit your patois: You done wrote some purty words ’bout that thar probey thang.

  21. llewelly

    Very cool pictures. Carefully examine the upper right of picture number nine, and you will see smoke from one of the Alien factories that makes the Flying Saucers used to Abduct humans and monitor zoonotic diseases humans carry.

  22. llewelly

    22. Flying sardines June 10th, 2009 at 12:16 am :

    If we could somehow use a giant “Trek-style transporter” and switch Mercury for Luna – how long do you reckon it’d take folks to notice? ;-)

    Mercury mass: 3.3022 × 10^23 kg (0.055 Earths)

    Moon mass: 7.3477 × 10^22 kg (0.0123 Earths)

    Since Mercury is about 4.5 times as massive, people living in sight of the ocean would notice pretty quickly. (And when the ‘moon’ rose, there would be a hue and cry from amateur astronomers because Mercury has noticeably larger diameter.)

  23. T.E.L.

    Flying sardines Said:

    “If we could somehow use a giant “Trek-style transporter” and switch Mercury for Luna – how long do you reckon it’d take folks to notice? ;)”

    Interestingly enough, this experiment can be done without the transporter. All that’s needed is to offer people photographs of Mercury labeled as “the Moon”, and see how many can tell the difference.

  24. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    *That’s* why I dunno what you’re talking about

    Same here: Templeton does ads? Whutfor … oh, they must not be satisfied with playing ‘science’, being faith based and all.

    It’s either that or probability is broken, something which may explain why some here against odds proposes that bloggers don’t have sexuality … eh, “dirty minds”.

    [OT, but it looks counter intuitive to define it as “dirty”. A simple experiment in brain washing with a good cleaning agent such as alcohol gives that a cleaner mind is “dirtier”. :-o]

  25. ekb

    The big picture says Mariner 10 visited Mercury twice… isn’t that a mistake? I thought it was three times.

    That’s what you can notice when you’re not obsessed with sex.

  26. T.E.L.

    ekb, you’re right: Mariner did do three passes at Mercury.

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