New Science Reveals the Mysteries of Mercury
Messenger Space Probe Explores our Solar Systems Hottest Planet
by Trinity Adams, age 11
Mercury is our solar system’s innermost planet. It is a planet we all have heard about, but don’t know much about. Previously, scientists did not pay much attention to Mercury. But, in 2004, our view of Mercury changed when NASA sent a spacecraft called the Messenger to explore the mysterious planet.
Seven years after NASA sent the Messenger space probe to Mercury, it went into orbit around the planet. To learn more about that planet, scientists are using cameras, gravitational instruments, laser altimeters, and more. Mercury is a great planet to research because there’s still a lot to learn.
Since Messenger has been exploring Mercury, scientists have found it to be far more interesting than they expected. They discovered that unlike earth, Mercury is mostly a metallic sphere surrounded by a thin layer of rocky surface. Scientists expected the planet to be covered with craters, but Messenger showed Mercury to have blemish-free patterns on its surface. This is interesting because it means that some lava on Mercury remained hot enough to repave the planet’s surface.
These discoveries on Mercury may not compare to Jupiter’s watery moons or Saturn’s rings. Nonetheless, Mercury still manages to hold the interest of many scientists. It is a fascinating part of our solar system.
[Sources: Time: 100 New Scientific Discoveries; Atlas of the Universe]