After thousands of orbits over a course of ten years, the Messenger Spacecraft is coming to an end, it’s scheduled to crash on April 30, 2015. It was an amazing leap of data (10 terabytes) of the planet, among its data was finding new discoveries and solving a mystery. The last mission being Mariner 10, was conducted in 1974 and it raised many questions while making some nice discoveries.
One of the biggest surprises was the discovery of hollows that ranged in various sizes…
“Early in its primary orbital mission, MESSENGER discovered thousands of peculiar depressions at a variety of longitudes and latitudes, ranging in size from tens of meters to several kilometers across and tens of meters deep.”
“These features, given the name ‘hollows,’ were a major surprise, because while we had been thinking of Mercury as a relic—a planet that wasn’t really changing anymore—hollows appear to be younger than the planet’s freshest impact craters. This finding suggests that Mercury is a planet whose surface is still evolving,” says MESSENGER Participating Scientist David Blewett, a geologist at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).”
How does Mercury get its dark color? Messenger has discovered that since the planet is so close to the sun, that it gets hit quite often from objects in space like comets. The high-speed impacts create amorphous carbon with the darkness of pencil lead (graphite) and soot. Now this interesting if scientists can calculate how much soot is present on Mercury after supposedly 4.5 billion years. Brown University estimated that between 3 and 6 percent carbon after billions of years. Perhaps send another spacecraft to measure it and study the young craters and more. Most likely it wouldn’t match up with the planet being assumed at 4.5 billion years old.
Also, Mercury was considered non-active because of that assumed age, but Messenger has discovered quite the contrary.
Ten years have gone by very quickly, and Messenger will be missed, it was a great effort to build this spacecraft and have it complete its mission over a course of ten years. We look forward to July 14, when the probe “New Horizons” flies by Pluto while gathering data about this dwarf planet and its moons. Based on previous missions, there are going to be surprises that doesn’t fit into its assumed old age. Rather, Pluto is going to have some young features. New Horizons just recently took its first image of Pluto! This will be exciting…:)