Mercury: A three-month trial and discovery

Scientists have summed up the first three months of work on the orbit of Mercury interplanetary probe MESSENGER. On the high-resolution structure of the floor made out of astrophysics craters. The probe determined the composition of the soil and built the Mercurian detailed relief map of the northern hemisphere.

The probe entered orbit around the planet closest to the Sun on March 18. During the three months of receiving tens of thousands of detailed pictures of the surface of Mercury, which were previously available only in low resolution. Devices installed on board the vehicle, shed light on the structure of the planet, the composition of the surface, the nature of the magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. For the announcement of new discoveries in NASA specially convened press conference

Details of the surface

In a detailed photography of planets discovered bright spotty deposits at the bottom of some craters. Shooting bimodal MDIS camera showed that these deposits alternating with valleys, the width of which varies from a few meters to kilometers. Depressions are surrounded by well-reflective material, and often are combined with central peaks on the crater floor and the individual peaks. "The appearance of these forms of relief are not like anything of what we've seen before on the Moon or Mercury" — said Brett Deneuve (Brett Denevi), Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University (Johns Hopkins University).

Composition of the surface

X-ray spectrometer, designed to measure the content of certain elements in the soil of the planet, also led to a number of discoveries. Averaged over the entire surface of the ratio of magnesium to silicon, aluminum and calcium to silicon to silicon have shown that in contrast to the Moon, Mercury in the soil is not dominated by various groups of feldspars. In the ground found high content of sulfur. This indicates that the primitive material from which the formation of the planet was going to contain less oxygen than the other terrestrial planets. Opening to deeper understanding of the nature of Mercurian volcanism.

Topography and the magnetic field

For three months the laser altimeter unit continuously built topographic map of the northern hemisphere of the planet. After more than two million exposures, scientists have accurate profiles of different geological structures. According to probe, the maximum difference in altitude in the northern hemisphere than 9 miles. Twenty years ago, with radiooblucheniya Mercury from the Earth was found that the two poles of Mercury radiorasseivayuschie contain elements. It is believed that the reverse radiootklik can provide water and other ices preserved beneath the surface always unlit craters.

MESSENGER also revealed differences in the shape of the magnetic field of the northern and southern poles. In particular, the area in which the magnetic field lines emerge from the surface at the South Pole, is broader than the corresponding region in the North Pole. This indicated to scientists that the south magnetic pole is more influenced by the solar wind than the north.


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