Exploring Mercury

2 05 2011

In our Ready, Set, Roll! exhibit, we have learned a lot about gravity. Now, we can see how gravity is used in different sciences like space exploration.

Here is the first image taken in Mercury's orbit by MESSENGER.

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, so it has been difficult to learn more about this planet, but now scientists have finally found the key thanks to gravity!

Since March 29, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has been sending back images of Mercury to Earth. These are the first images ever taken from within the tiny planet’s orbit.

The first photographs include glimpses of Mercury’s surface never before seen by spacecraft. The images also show a lot of small craters, which look like pits in the ground.

In the first three days of the MESSENGER orbiting around Mercury, the MESSENGER sent about 1,500 by March 31.

On average, the spacecraft will take more than 200 photographs per day. This is over 75,000 pictures in a year!

On March 17, MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. This was all possible due to gravity. Gravity is a force of attraction. This force, or pull, is increased as mass increases. This is why we stay on the ground as we walk and why Earth stays in its orbit. In the case of MESSENGER, it is held close to Mercury by the planet’s gravity.

Mercury does not have a lot of mass, but fortunately, it has enough to keep MESSENGER in its orbit, and we can continue to discover new things about this planet’s atmosphere, landscape and history!

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One response

6 05 2011
Kate

I wish I could be an astronaut and ride on MESSENGER. Wouldn’t it be so cool to see Mercury up close and personal? I’d better put in my application to NASA!

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