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Mercury, More Colorful Than We Ever Thought

We all know of the planet Mercury being most well known for its position closest to the sun. Mercury speeds around the sun at only 88 times a year making it the fastest planet in our solar system by 31 miles per second. As a matter of fact, it gets as close as 29 million miles away from the sun and can reach temps of upward 800 fahrenheit. The night time temps are extreme as well due to the lack of atmosphere the planet has. Those can reach a nasty -280 Fahrenheit!

Image credit: NASA(taken from)

What we didn’t know until recent was its true colors, literally. Mercury was always the gray planet closest to the sun. Our universe explorers NASA have a satellite in orbit called Messenger. Messenger is equipt with a multi filtered camera system that allows itself to isolate color variations and combine them for incredible photographs. It can actually perform mineralogical studies from orbit! In the pictures below you can see how Messenger’s pictures differentiate rock types and colors. The yellowish color indicates a younger surface while the blueish color is a more aged surface. The younger surface is obvious due to its lack of impact scares caused by speeding space debris. Astronomers wish these color patterns could be viewed by the bare eye, unfortunately they can only be viewed this way through the Messenger’s camera technologies.

Image credit: NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington(original link)

The Messenger was moving at such a high rate of speed that scientists could not decipher the mineral composition in the images. On the upside, Messenger has already settled into orbit in 2011. What this means is now the scientists will be able to map the surface of Mercury to the satellites CPU giving us space junkies even better detail and more info on this beat up, fried planet. We will keep our followers up to date as possible with further images when made available.


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