We bid a fond farewell to the MESSENGER spacecraft on April 30th, 2015
"Our craft set a record for planetary flybys, spent more than four years in orbit about the planet closest to the Sun, and survived both punishing heat and extreme doses of radiation. Among its other achievements, MESSENGER determined Mercury’s surface composition, revealed its geological history, discovered that its internal magnetic field is offset from the planet’s center, taught us about Mercury’s unusual internal structure, followed the chemical inventory of its exosphere with season and time of day, discovered novel aspects of its extraordinarily active magnetosphere, and verified that its polar deposits are dominantly water ice. A resourceful and committed team of engineers, mission operators, scientists, and managers can be extremely proud that the MESSENGER mission has surpassed all expectations and delivered a stunningly long list of discoveries that have changed our views not only of one of Earth’s sibling planets but of the entire inner solar system," said Sean Solomon, MESSENGER’s Principal Investigator.
WINNERS ANNOUNCED! Name a Crater on Mercury in Honor of your Favorite Artist Contest
Visit the competition website to see the winners and learn more [HERE]!
Watch an animation revealing the winners [HERE]!
Check out the Image of the Day for MESSENGER [HERE]!
Read the International Astronomical Union press release [HERE]!
Check out our new
(and ever expanding)
set of "shareables" [HERE]!
Media and Public Event: MESSENGER’s Top 10 Science and Engineering Accomplishments
After more than 10 years in operation, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft will impact the surface of Mercury later this month at a speed of more than 3.91 kilometers per second (8,750 miles per hour), marking the end of operations for the hugely successful Mercury orbiter. At this media and public event, scientists and engineers discussed the mission’s accomplishments, provided the Top 10 scientific discoveries, as well as the technological innovations that grew out of the mission. Watch the full briefing and access supporting materials [HERE].
Press Briefing: Science Results from MESSENGER’s Low-Altitude Campaign
MESSENGER scientists presented new findings from the highest resolution images of Mercury to date at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) on 16 March. Watch the full briefing and access supporting materials [HERE].
Water ice on the planet closest to the Sun?!
Explore the data and see for yourself...
- Explore the actual data that led to this surprising conclusion [HERE]!
- Three independent lines of evidence support this conclusion: the first measurements of excess hydrogen at Mercury’s north pole with MESSENGER’s Neutron Spectrometer, the first measurements of the reflectance of Mercury’s polar deposits at near-infrared wavelengths with the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA), and the first detailed models of the surface and near-surface temperatures of Mercury’s north polar regions that utilize the actual topography of Mercury’s surface measured by MLA. These findings are presented in three papers published online in Science Express [HERE].
- Given its proximity to the Sun, Mercury would seem to be an unlikely place to find ice. But the tilt of Mercury’s rotational axis is almost zero — less than one degree — so there are pockets at the planet’s poles that never see sunlight. Scientists suggested decades ago that there might be water ice and other frozen volatiles trapped at Mercury’s poles. Peak inside these shadowed craters [HERE]. See how the Sun illuminates (or doesn’t illuminate!) these craters [HERE].
- Images from MESSENGER’s Mercury Dual Imaging System taken in 2011 and early 2012 confirmed that radar-bright features at Mercury’s north and south poles are within shadowed regions on Mercury’s surface, findings that are consistent with the water-ice hypothesis. See it for yourself [HERE] or [HERE].
- Now the newest data from MESSENGER strongly indicate that water ice is the major constituent of Mercury’s north polar deposits, that ice is exposed at the surface in the coldest of those deposits, but that the ice is buried beneath an unusually dark material across most of the deposits, areas where temperatures are a bit too warm for ice to be stable at the surface itself. Look at the modeled temperatures at Mercury’s poles [HERE].
Explore Mercury in Google Earth:
- Take a tour of some of the latest research findings on Mercury with a MESSENGER mission scientist as your guide! [Guided tours of Mercury in Google Earth]
- Do you have Google Earth? Would you like to explore Mercury on that platform? Try it here! Use these simple instructions.
About the MESSENGER Education and Public Outreach website
In developing this site, educators, scientists, and engineers are working together to bring the exciting science of MESSENGER to everyone. Here you will find a wealth of resources about the planet Mercury and about the MESSENGER mission. If you are a student or teacher make sure you check out the special sections containing educational materials and opportunities.
The MESSENGER Education and Public Outreach Team
The MESSENGER education and public outreach program is conducted by a dedicated team of individuals and organizations with a long track record in space science education in both formal (classroom) and informal (museum and science center) settings. Read about the partner organizations here and meet the team that makes it all happen here.