First images of Mercury, courtesy NASA
NASA's MESSENGER space probe has finally reached the solar system's innermost planet, Mercury. To say Mercury is hot would be an epic understatement. The mean surface temperature of the planet is 440K, rising to about 725K on the sunward sign. That's about 323 degrees Fahrenheit, rising to about 845K in the sun.
CBSNews.com: Historic image of Mercury sent back to Earth
We've never really had a chance to see Mercury up close, but the MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) probe is changing all that. This week, it sent back its first image, the one at the top of this post.
MESSENGER has a long history. Here's a summary of the timeline, courtesy of NASA:
MESSENGER contains some amazing gear, including a dual imaging system, a gamma-ray spectrometer, a neutron spectrometer, an X-Ray spectrometer, a magnetometer, a laser altimeter, an atmospheric and surface composition spectrometer, an energetic particle and plasma spectrometer, and a variety of other instruments.
Stay tuned. We're bound to learn more about Mercury than we've ever known before.