Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

Mercury's Secrets Revealed

More than 1,000 new images of the planet reveal startling results.

By Karen RowanApril 8, 2008 5:00 AM
mercury2.jpg
Images courtesy of NASA/ The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab/ Carnegie Inst. Washington | NULL

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

In the first pass by planet Mercury since Mariner 10’s 1975 visit, the Messenger spacecraft has captured 1,213 stunning new images. Sean Solomon, principal investigator on the mission, explains a few of the unique pictures of the solar system’s innermost planet:

Spider (left): “The ‘spider’ is unlike any feature Mariner ever saw. There are nearly a hundred sets of extensional faults that burst out from the central region. They look like the legs of some creature that was squished billions of years ago.”

Fault lines (center): “This scarp [the black line running through the upper-left part of the picture] was formed by tectonic activity, where the right was pushed up over the left side, like a typical Earth fault line. This is Mercury’s dominant form of deformation [which, researchers believe, happened when] the planet was shrinking.”

Concentric rings (right): “As an impact on any planet gets bigger, the nature of the crater changes. Here, the original crater is now the outer ring—the inner ring is formed by other complicated geological processes that are part of the same initial event.”

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In