Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Brown Planetary Geologists Lend Expertise to Mercury Mission

15.01.2008
When NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft makes its historic flyby of Mercury on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008, Brown University students, led by planetary geologist James Head, will be part of the action. At mission headquarters and at Brown, these planetary experts will help analyze images from Mercury, the smallest and densest planet in the solar system. Head leads the MESSENGER mission’s geology group, overseeing analysis of Mercury’s volcanic features and dating rocks on the planet’s cratered surface.

What lies on the uncharted side of mysterious Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system? Brown University students, led by planetary geologist James Head, will study never-before-seen images of Mercury when a NASA spacecraft makes the first visit to Mercury in nearly 33 years.

On Monday, Jan. 14, 2008, the NASA spacecraft MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) will begin collecting more than 1,200 images of Mercury’s ancient Moon-like surface, which is filled with wide craters, rocky plains and curved cliffs. The images will be unprecedented: When the Mariner 10 probe made its final Mercury flyby in 1975, it left with images from less than half the planet.

Determining the composition of rocks on Mercury’s surface, as well as the age and origin of these rocks, will be the central work of MESSENGER’s geology group. James Head, a planetary geologist and the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor at Brown, is leading this international team of scientists as well as a cadre of Brown students involved in the mission.

The MESSENGER mission, part of NASA’s Discovery program, is led by Sean Solomon, a geophysicist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

“This is pioneering work,” Head said. “When data from MESSENGER starts coming in, we’ll be seeing terrain no human has ever seen before. And when you don’t know what one half of a planet looks like, you’re in for some surprises.”

On Monday, Head and graduate students Laura Kerber and Debra Hurwitz, along with research analyst Jay Dickson, will be at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland to join in MESSENGER lead operations and data analysis. Graduate student Caleb Fassett will lead a “home team” of students from the Department of Geological Sciences, who will begin to study geological data down-linked from the MESSENGER probe.

The spacecraft is equipped with a camera and other instruments that will provide information on the mineralogical and chemical composition of Mercury’s surface, as well as up-close images of Mercury’s terrain, which includes the spectacular Caloris Basin, an 800-mile-wide impact crater that is one of the largest in the solar system.

Head and the Brown students, along with the rest of the MESSENGER science teams, will use the data from the mission to better understand Mercury’s volcanic history, the origin of its craters, and the ages of different surface rock units.

This information will answer fundamental questions about the formation of Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun. Along with information on Mercury’s geological composition and evolution, MESSENGER instruments will also give scientists a better understanding of the planet’s magnetic field, its gravity field, its atmosphere and its iron core.

“In the 50 years since Sputnik, more than 30 spacecraft have been sent to the Moon, yet only now is a second spacecraft hurtling toward Mercury,” Head said. “The MESSENGER mission is a ground-breaking effort, one that will address key questions about this enigmatic planet.”

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call the Office of Media Relations at (401) 863-2476.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>