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

MESSENGER: Three days out from Mercury

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitSeptember 27, 2009 4:37 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The spacecraft MESSENGER is just three days away from its third encounter with Mercury. The pasttwo have been nothing short of frakkin' amazing, so I'm really looking forward to this final pass. Even though it was 1.3 million kilometers away from the tiny planet on the 25th, it snapped this serene shot:

messenger_sep2509.jpg

I love moody astronomical pictures. Here, a crescent Mercury sits in the inky black as MESSENGER screams down on it at 3.3 km/sec (2 miles per second). ON this final pass, the spacecraft will slow enough that it will be able to enter orbit around Mercury in March 2011. The nominal lifespan of the mission will be for one solid (Earth) year of observations, and will map the planet with 18 meter resolution. That's the size of a house. That is so going to rock. But that's 1.5 years away, and we're still waiting on this third pass. I hope to be able to post pix when they come in, but I'm traveling to the UK for TAM London not long after, so we'll see. But you can always keep an eye on the MESSENGER website, as well as Emily Lakdawalla's blog. They'll be up-to-date... especially, if I know her, Emily, who will be spending the flyby looming over her keyboard and hitting "refresh" every 30 seconds or so.

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