January 30th, 2008
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Mercury photos analyzed by NASA; experts and guests eye them at Adler Planetarium
NASA’s new analysis of Mercury reveals geologic processes
By James Janega
TRIBUNE REPORTER - Chicago Tribune
January 30, 2008
For weeks, a team of NASA scientists studying Mercury has analyzed data from an unmanned flyby of the planet. They found a magnetic field with north and south poles and a weak atmosphere snagging particles blasting by in a solar wind.
They saw a surface burned by streaming ions and scarred by evidence of lava flows and bits of crust lifted from beneath. For the first time, they appreciated Mercury as a planet alive with geologic processes, and it left them a bit stunned.
In short, said Sean Solomon, principal investigator on the mission, Mercury showed things “never seen before on another planet.”
On Wednesday, National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials unveiled their first analysis of one of the solar system’s least understood planets. The new insights come from 288 images of Mercury snapped by a space probe called MESSENGER as it flew past earlier this year.
The high-resolution photos, shown on a wall of video screens, held a handful of visitors in rapture Wednesday. School groups in the hallway stopped and stared in wonder.
On a couch in front of the display, Stephen Navolio smiled and murmured, “This is fascinating!” a couple of times. His wife, Margaret, smiled in amazement.