Thursday, 15 July 2021

Why is the Closest Planet Also the Most Difficult to Visit? NASA's MESSENGER Mercury Probe

Astrum on Youtube shows you why "Planet Mercury" has only had one dedicated mission.

Many people didn't know about this. This is something interesting to learn. It seems that the Closest Planet (generally called "closest to Earth") is also the most difficult to visit. Take a look at the story of NASA's MESSENGER Mercury Probe.

Having almost no atmosphere to retain heat, the planet has surface temperatures that vary "diurnally" more than on any other planet in the Solar System, ranging from 100 K (−173 °C; −280 °F) at night to 700 K (427 °C; 800 °F) during the day across the equatorial regions. The polar regions are constantly below 180 K (−93 °C; −136 °F). The planet has no known natural satellites.

Meaning of "diurnally": (adjective):

1. Relating to or occurring in a 24-hour period; daily.
2. Occurring or active during the daytime rather than at night: diurnal animals.

Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the closest to the Sun. Its orbit around the Sun takes 87.97 Earth days, the shortest of all the Sun's planets. It is named after the Roman god Mercurius (Mercury), god of commerce, messenger of the gods, and mediator between gods and mortals, corresponding to the Greek god Hermes (Ἑρμῆς). Like Venus, Mercury orbits the Sun within Earth's orbit as an inferior planet, and its apparent distance from the Sun as viewed from Earth never exceeds 28°. This proximity to the Sun means the planet can only be seen near the western horizon after sunset or the eastern horizon before sunrise, usually in twilight. At this time, it may appear as a bright star-like object but is often far more difficult to observe than Venus. From Earth, the planet telescopically displays the complete range of phases, similar to Venus and the Moon, which recurs over its so-called synodic period of approximately 116 days.

"Planet Mercury" rotates in a way that is unique in the Solar System. It is tidally locked with the Sun in a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance, meaning that relative to the fixed stars, it rotates on its axis exactly 3 times for every 2 revolutions it makes around the Sun. As seen from the Sun, in a frame of reference that rotates with the orbital motion, it appears to rotate only once every two Mercurian years. An observer on Mercury would therefore see only one day every two Mercurian years.

Mercury's axis has the smallest tilt of any of the Solar System's planets (about 1⁄30 degree). Its orbital eccentricity is the largest of all known planets in the Solar System; at perihelion, Mercury's distance from the Sun is only about two-thirds (or 66%) of its distance at aphelion. Mercury's surface appears heavily cratered and is similar in appearance to the Moon's, indicating that it has been geologically inactive for billions of years.

2 spacecraft have visited Mercury: Mariner 10 flew by in 1974 and 1975; and MESSENGER, launched in 2004, orbited Mercury over 4,000 times in four years before exhausting its fuel and crashing into the planet's surface on April 30, 2015. The BepiColombo spacecraft is planned to arrive at Mercury in 2025.

Mercury is 1 of 4 terrestrial planets in the Solar System, and is a rocky body like Earth. It is the smallest planet in the Solar System, with an equatorial radius of 2,439.7 kilometres. Mercury is also smaller (albeit more massive) than the largest natural satellites in the Solar System, Ganymede and Titan. Mercury consists of approximately 70% metallic and 30% silicate material.

Here on Earth, "Silicate Minerals" are the most common of Earth's minerals and include quartz, feldspar, mica, amphibole, pyroxene, and olivine.

Mercury can, like several other planets and the brightest stars, be seen during a total solar eclipse.

Like the Moon and Venus, Mercury exhibits phases as seen from Earth. It is "new" at inferior conjunction and "full" at superior conjunction. The planet is rendered invisible from Earth on both of these occasions because of its being obscured by the Sun, except its new phase during a transit.

Mercury is technically brightest as seen from Earth when it is at a full phase. Although Mercury is farthest from Earth when it is full, the greater illuminated area that is visible and the opposition brightness surge more than compensates for the distance. The opposite is true for Venus, which appears brightest when it is a crescent, because it is much closer to Earth than when gibbous.

Ground-based telescope observations of Mercury reveal only an illuminated partial disk with limited detail. The first of two spacecraft to visit the planet was Mariner 10, which mapped about 45% of its surface from 1974 to 1975. The second is the MESSENGER spacecraft, which after three Mercury flybys between 2008 and 2009, attained orbit around Mercury on March 17, 2011, to study and map the rest of the planet.

The Hubble Space Telescope cannot observe Mercury at all, due to safety procedures that prevent its pointing too close to the Sun.

The European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency developed and launched a joint mission called BepiColombo, which will orbit Mercury with two probes: one to map the planet and the other to study its magnetosphere. Launched on October 20, 2018, BepiColombo is expected to reach Mercury in 2025. It will release a magnetometer probe into an elliptical orbit, then chemical rockets will fire to deposit the mapper probe into a circular orbit. Both probes will operate for one terrestrial year. The mapper probe carries an array of spectrometers similar to those on MESSENGER, and will study the planet at many different wavelengths including infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma ray.

Space colonization is the hypothetical permanent habitation and exploitation of natural resources from outside planet Earth. As such it is a form of human presence in space, beyond human spaceflight or operating space outposts. Many arguments have been made for and against space colonization of various planets.

1 comment:

  1. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

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