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Space Photos of the Week: Transit of Mercury 2019



Of all the planets in our solar system, Mercury is probably the most underrated. It does not feel like swirling clouds, rings or feathers. It does not even have an atmosphere. This small rocky body has a history of volcanism and even water ice in its craters. Mercury is also involved in a special resonance with Jupiter (think of a billion-year-old dance partner), and there is a possibility that Mercury may lose its balance in millions of years and be ejected from the solar system and maybe take Mars with it the way.

Just this week, our innermost planet reached its climax as it made a rare transit and passed in the right direction in front of the sun so people on Earth could see it. It was not until 2032 that the flight resumed. Only two spaceships have ever visited Mercury: Mariner 1

0 (1974 and 1975) and NASA's Messenger mission, which circled Mercury from 2011 to 2015 when it was desorbed and crashed to the surface. This week we'll get a little bit more familiar with the innermost world of the solar system.

Look at the bottom left corner of this image from Our sun, you'll see a tiny black dot. Say hello to Mercury! On Monday, November 11th, it began for the first time in several years to move between Earth and Sun. (Certainly it looks especially small here, but next to the sun everything looks tiny.) Photo: Bill Ingalls / NASA
As NASA's MESSENGER mission in orbit around Mercury She took photos of the planet in unprecedented detail, including this photo from the edge of the Rembrant basin. At 445 miles in diameter, Rembrant is the largest basin on the surface, and this long seam in the center of the image is a feature of plate tectonics. NASA / Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University / Carnegie Institution of Washington
The bright crater on top of the picture is called Dominici Crater. Whatever hit the surface, it hit hard enough to push ejecta over the planet, exposing the volcanic remains and the lighter material underneath. The entire basin was filled with lava from volcanoes, so meteor impacts such as these, which stir up dirt and rocks, can provide scientists with clues as to what types of materials are below the surface. NASA Goddard
This false-color image of the Caloris Basin features ancient lava in orange and material whirled up by meteorite impacts in deeper purples. Scientists from the MESSENGER team planned this photo for the time when the sun and the spaceship were directly above us. Talk about using a natural light source to capture your shot: The brightness of the sun meant that MESSENGER's instruments and camera could capture clear, detailed data. NASA / Applied Physics Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University / Carnegie Institution of Washington
This is MESSENGER, our spaceship du jour. The planet Mercury is named after the Greek messenger god, but NASA rarely does anything that is not an acronym. MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space Environment, GEochemistry and Ranging. During his four-year orbit around Mercury MESSENGER not only discovered evidence of ancient volcanism on Mercury, but also found water ice in the craters. KSC

While waiting for the next Mercury transit, take a look at it in the rest of the collection of space photos here.


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