Mercury Up Close and Personal

NASA’s Messenger probe began transmitting up close and personal images of Mercury early in the morning on March 17. The probe is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and over the next six hours transmitted over 350 images to Earth of the innermost planet.

The dominant crater in the upper corner of the image is Debussy. The smaller crater to the west of Debussy is called Matabei and is described as having “unusual dark rays.” The bottom part of the image is near Mercury’s south pole and includes a region of the planet’s surface not previously seen by spacecraft.

Of the planets in our solar system, Mercury is “the smallest, the densest (after correcting for self-compression), the one with the oldest surface, the one with the largest daily variations in surface temperature, and the least explored.” Some of its craters possess dark sections that may be ice even on this planet so close to the sun. Like Earth, Mercury has a global internal magnetic field. Since Venus does not possess a global internal magnetic field, scientists want to know why the inner planets differ in their magnetic histories.

Some scientists think that colonizing Mercury would be a wiser choice than going to Mars, namely because of easy solar power so close to the sun, Mercury’s similarity to our Moon, it’s abundance of metals, and that nifty global internal magnetic field.

What do you think? Is there a planet in our solar system you would love to visit if it were possible?



  1. Very cool! Although, I must admit to being spoiled by Star Trek… aren’t planets in our own solar system a little hum-drum? 😉 Seriously, though, I do love Jupiter for some reason.

  2. I thinkt the larger moons of Jupiter would be a better bet. Europa may have liquid water. And while I am all for going further like KC, a species has to start somewhere, right?

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