Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The Mercury is rising

Despite the somewhat depressing times everyone is experiencing right now we're still making some fantastic scientific discoveries. The NASA MESSENGER probe has taken some stunning images of Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun and definitely one of the least understood planets in the solar system.

Mercury is a mystery but is also one of the keys to confirming Einstein's theory of relativity. Its odd orbit wasn't understood until general relativity explained it. A high five to Albert.

OK, so it looks a bit like the Moon. I guess it does. This planet hasn't been imaged for decades though, at least not this close, and scientists are going to learn quite a lot about our solar system from this mission. I'm no planetary scientist but can't help thinking that Mercury took quite a smack from something large in its youth, just look at the northern polar region. In fact several groups think a giant impact is what created Mercury in the first place (just like our moon), but the scar from that wouldn't be visible on the planet, so am looking forward to finding out exactly what the experts think.

This is an amazing time in planetary science, both NASA and ESA are making tremendous discoveries about our solar system and nearest planets. Water is confirmed on Mars and who knows, maybe we'll find out if life existed there or, heavens above, might still be there.

And all this costs poodle piss compared to the money lost by Wall Street.

(Picture credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

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