Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

MESSENGER Scientists 'Astonished' to Find Water in Mercury's Thin Atmosphere

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

03-07-2008 18:42 CDT


I've just posted a news story on the latest results of the MESSENGER mission, announced in a telephone news conference held today. The timing may seem strange, as it's the day before a major holiday in the U.S., exactly the right time to hold a press conference if your goal is for people to ignore or overlook the news. However, the mission had no choice; the timing was dictated by the editors of Science magazine, who selected Independence Day for the first publication of peer-reviewed research (a total of eleven papers!) from MESSENGER's first flyby of Mercury. Sigh.

Anyway, much of the content of the press briefing consisted of updates or refinements to the discoveries announced shortly after the flyby in January -- there's a dipolar magnetic field and not much in the way of small-scale magnetic field structure, both of which indicate that Mercury's core is still partially molten and generating the field via a dynamo, just like Earth's; there's lots of stuff in the MESSENGER images that looks like volcanic constructs, settling a 30-year-old-debate; there's interesting stuff to be seen in the composition of the neutral species in Mercury's extended atmosphere. The biggest and newest news this week came out of the FIPS instrument (the Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer), which found water -- water?!? -- in Mercury's exosphere, and quite a lot of it. Go read my news article for the rest of the story.

See other posts from July 2008


Or read more blog entries about:


Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search


Advocate for Space!

Fifteen years ago, Society members and passionate space advocates like you helped save the Pluto mission. Now we can do the same for missions to Europa and Mars.

Join over 27,600 people who have completed their petition and consider a donation to support advocacy efforts.

Sign Our Petition

Featured Images

LightSail-B on the bench
Blue Origin New Shepard after first landing
New Shepard test flight and booster landing
Suni Williams and Doug Hurley in Crew Dragon
More Images

Featured Video

MISSIONS: Dawn In The Asteroid Belt With Marc Rayman

Watch Now

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Selfies to Space!

Take flight with a selfie on LightSail™ in 2016!

Send a Selfie Now

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!