As we study a planet from Earth, from spacecraft flybys and from orbit, we broaden our understanding and narrow our focus. These Modules explore Mercury data gathered by an Earth-based telescope, the Mariner 10 spacecraft, and the MESSENGER spacecraft in a format that fosters self-directed learning.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is generating a massive amount of data, including images. And sometimes it takes a human eye, rather than a computer, to analyze these images. That’s why we need you to join the Mercury Mappers team. Once you create an account and complete a short tutorial, we’ll show you actual images of the Mercury’s surface, and ask you to find and measure craters and other features. It’s fun and it will help MESSENGER scientists learn about the planet’s topography and evolution. Mercury Mappers was developed by CosmoQuest, in conjunction with the MESSENGER Education/Public Outreach team.
In this online interactive you can mimic the process used by MESSENGER scientists and make a mosaic of Mercury on the "Print Side." Or, zoom into rayed craters, scarps, volcanic areas and more to explore the unique features that make up this planet using the Surface Interactive. You will find all of the print materials you need to make a mosaic and you might learn something fascinating along the way!
Despite the fact that Mercury is the closest planet to our Sun, it has long been postulated that water ice could be stable in cold, permanently shadowed regions of the north and south poles. About 20 years ago, Earth-based observations of Mercury revealed bright spots in radar data, which we call "radar-bright regions". When these data were compared with images from the Mariner 10 spacecraft, which flew by Mercury in the mid-1970’s, one could see that the radar-bright deposits were within impact craters. Yet, until the MESSENGER spacecraft began its comprehensive campaign to figure out exactly what these polar deposits might be, the question of their composition remained unanswered. Now it is your turn to mimic the scientific process, in which data from various instruments have helped to answer one of the questions guiding this mission: What are the unusual materials at Mercury’s poles?