Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mercury-bound instruments aboard MESSENGER arrive at target

Date:
March 21, 2011
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
As the MESSENGER spacecraft begins its science operations above the surface of Mercury, NASA instruments are gearing up to help unveil the planet's mysteries.

three-axis, ring-core fluxgate detector, MAG characterizes Mercury’s magnetic field in detail, helping scientists determine the field’s precise strength and how it varies with position and altitude.
Credit: JHUAPL

As the MESSENGER spacecraft begins its science operations above the surface of Mercury, Goddard instruments are gearing up to help unveil the planet's mysteries. Goddard leads or co-leads two of the spacecraft's instruments and a science investigation aboard the spacecraft.

The vector fluxgate Magnetometer, or MAG, is a joint development between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

MAG will collect magnetic field samples at a rate of up to 20 times per second. These measurements will be used to discover the nature and origins of the planet's global magnetic field, determine the magnetic properties of its outer layer or crust, and explore new types of space weather that are thought to be unique to Mercury.

For example, the dynamic interaction between the very strong flux of charged particle radiation from the Sun at 0.31 Astronomical Units (AUs) and Mercury's magnetic field is believed to be responsible for the huge day-to-day variations in this planet's atmosphere. Mercury's atmosphere is very tenuous and is believed to exist in part due to the sputtering of neutral atoms off the surface by solar wind ions that enter through "holes" in the shield created by this planet's magnetic field.

The Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA), led by Goddard, will map the planet's landforms and other surface characteristics. At the heart of the instrument are a laser that sends light to the planet's surface and a sensor that gathers the light that has been reflected back from the surface. By measuring the amount of time it takes for light to travel to the surface and back, the distance to the surface can be calculated. These distance measurements are taken eight times per second, roughly 500 yards apart on the surface, yielding very accurate descriptions of the topography, or contours, of Mercury's landscape.

Goddard also leads the Radio Science (RS) investigation. The observations are gathered by tracking the spacecraft via the communication system. Using the Doppler effect, the Radio Science experiment will measure very slight variations in MESSENGER's speed and distance from Earth. These will help scientists understand how the planet's mass is distributed, including details such as variations in the thickness of Mercury's crust.

MLA data combined with the Radio Science investigation will help map the planet's gravitational field and provide information about the size and characteristics of Mercury's core.

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery- class mission for NASA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Mercury-bound instruments aboard MESSENGER arrive at target." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110321100529.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2011, March 21). Mercury-bound instruments aboard MESSENGER arrive at target. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110321100529.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Mercury-bound instruments aboard MESSENGER arrive at target." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110321100529.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins