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The MESSENGER spacecraft, over the battered surface Mercury for the second time this has revealed previously unseen real estate on the planet. The probe also has produced several firsts and is returning hundreds of new and measurements the planet's surface, and magnetic field.
The Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and or MESSENGER, spacecraft flew Mercury shortly after 4:40 a.m. EDT, on 6. It completed critical gravity assist to keep it on to orbit Mercury in 2011 and 30 percent of Mercury's surface never before by a spacecraft. region of Mercury's surface that viewed at range for first time this month is bigger the land of South America," said Solomon, principal investigator and of the Department Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie of Washington. combined with data from first flyby and from Mariner 10, our coverage means that we now seen about 95 percent the planet."
The spacecraft's science instruments throughout the flyby. Cameras more than 1,200 of the surface, topography beneath the spacecraft profiled with a altimeter. The comparison of observations from the spacecraft's first flyby in with data from the probe's second pass provided key new insight into nature of Mercury's internal magnetic field and new features of its magnetosphere. The magnetosphere the volume surrounding Mercury that is controlled the planet's magnetic field. previous flybys by MESSENGER and Mariner provided data only about Mercury's eastern explains Brian Anderson the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, known APL, in Laurel, Md. "The most flyby gave us our first on Mercury's western hemisphere, and with them discovered that the planet's magnetic field is symmetric."
The probe's Mercury Laser or MLA, the planet's topography, scientists, for the first time, to correlate topography measurements with high-resolution
"The MLA collected altimetry in where images from MESSENGER and 10 data are available, and images were obtained of the sampled by the altimeter in January," Maria Zuber, co-investigator head of the Department Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences the Massachusetts Institute of "These topographic measurements improve considerably the to interpret surface geology."
The Mercury Atmospheric Surface Composition observed Mercury's thin atmosphere, known as exosphere. The searched for emissions from sodium, calcium, and hydrogen Observations of magnesium are first detection of chemical in Mercury's Preliminary analysis suggests that the distributions of sodium, calcium, and magnesium are Simultaneous observations of these spatial also a for the spacecraft, have an unprecedented window into the interaction Mercury's surface and exosphere. images also are revealing for the time vast differences on the surface.
"Now MESSENGER's cameras have imaged more 80 percent of Mercury, it is that, unlike the moon and Mars, Mercury's is more homogeneously ancient and heavily cratered, large extents of younger plains lying within and between impact basins," said Mark Robinson of Arizona University in Tempe.