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Mercury Turns Out To Be a Weird Little World

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the it's-certainly-mercurial dept.

NASA 90

sighted writes "The robotic spacecraft MESSENGER, now orbiting the first planet, has found new findings odd features on its surface, including unexplained, blueish 'hollows' that may be actively forming today. The findings will be published this week in Science. One scientist said, 'The conventional wisdom was that Mercury is just like the Moon. But from its vantage point in orbit, MESSENGER is showing us that Mercury is radically different from the Moon in just about every way we can measure.'" As you might expect, National Geographic has beautiful imagery to go along with the story.

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It would be cool.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37559466)

... if they were little pools of liquid mercury!

Re:It would be cool.... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559612)

... if they were little pools of liquid mercury!

It's cheese!

"Gromit, that's it! Cheese! We'll go somewhere where there's cheese!

Re:It would be cool.... (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560026)

>> little pools of liquid mercury!

>> It's cheese!

It's Eggs , and they are ready to hatch . . .

Re:It would be cool.... (0)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#37566432)

Oh. The eggs have ripened.

Wait a minute... eggs don't ripen. EGGS DON'T RIPEN!

Re:It would be cool.... (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#37563942)

It could be selenium. Just make sure you order your collection robots forcefully enough or you'll be in the shit.

Re:It would be cool.... (1)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#37565762)

You could always just risk your life to get them to snap out of it.

First planet, first post. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37559470)

First planet, first post.

Upcomming movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37559484)

They came from Mercury!
"No one is safe from the blue men from Mercury"

Has found new findings? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37559488)

has found new findings

As opposed to what? Finding old findings?

Re:Has found new findings? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559624)

has found new findings

As opposed to what? Finding old findings?

Old findings - it's a hole in the sky through which we see the light of Heaven.

Re:Has found new findings? (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 2 years ago | (#37565390)

Stuff we found 50 years ago would be old findings.

i'm more disturbed by find/find. That's just lazy writing.

Re:Has found new findings? (1)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#37579028)

Finding findings sounded fishy so they neatly fixed it.

False Color (3, Insightful)

NortySpock (1966236) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559494)

I'm pretty sure the blue color is false color showing height, as the image caption reads: "A colorized MESSENGER picture shows hollows (blue) in the Raditladi impact basin on Mercury."

don't trivialize the tradegy (0)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559676)

No one bothered to think of the implications of the village of "evil doubles" Poppa Smurf made with his magic; those dark Doppelgängers had to be rid off after their duty done, and disposal via melting in a crater on the Hell Planet was the most convenient for Poppa.

Re:False Color (3, Informative)

sighted (851500) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559684)

The images are enhanced (stretched) color, not false color. According to the official release, the hollows are "very bright and have a blue color relative to other areas of Mercury." As one image caption from NASA explains, "the enhanced-color locator image emphasizes the high reflectance and relatively blue color."

Re:False Color (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559720)

Nonsense. It's made of the same stuff as the bluish Horsehead Nebula [wikimedia.org] . I wonder why it sometimes turns pink [wikimedia.org] .

Re:False Color (0)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559958)

OMG PINK STAR PONIES!

Why, yes, Slashdot, it IS just like shouting. Because it is, in fact, shouting.

Re:False Color (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560158)

I looked shouting up in the dictionary. Turns out that capitals are not, in fact, shouting.

Re:False Color (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560798)

Nonsense. It's made of the same stuff as the bluish Horsehead Nebula [wikimedia.org] . I wonder why it sometimes turns pink [wikimedia.org]

OMG PINK STAR PONIES!

No, when you mix blue [wikimedia.org] with pink [wikimedia.org] , you get purple [mylittlefacewhen.com] .

Why, yes, Slashdot, it IS just like shouting. Because it is, in fact, shouting.

But I thought Slashdot WANTED shouting...

Re:False Color (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37561906)

You're right that this is false color (speaking as a grad student using data from MDIS, the MESSENGER camera system). Mercury looks gray to our eyes. The red, green, and blue channels of this image are reflectance at 1000 nm, 750 nm, and 430 nm respectively. (This isn't altimetry: that data isn't ready for prime time yet.) The implication of this blue color is that hollow floors are young (planetary surfaces redden with age).

An Evolving World (1)

Jedi Holocron (225191) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559504)

And thus proving that the rest of the solar isn't isn't a static, unchanging, and dead (lifeless??) environment.

Yay!!!

Blue hollows (1)

zygotic mitosis (833691) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559514)

I knew it! The harmoniums [wikipedia.org] are real!

Re:Blue hollows (1)

zygotic mitosis (833691) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559604)

Alright, well, the main article on Sirens of Titan turned out not to have anything about the harmoniums. But this will do [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Blue hollows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37564826)

Seem alike. Must be them!

Re:Blue hollows (1)

digitac (24581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560572)

Maybe they are actually Hooloovoo's [wikipedia.org] ?

Maybe... (1)

bi$hop (878253) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559522)

...the entire planet is made up of liquid mercury! And maybe liquid mercury on Mercury is blueish!

Why would they assume Mercury is like the moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37559532)

It is exposed to extremely higher temperature, formed in a completely different manner, has an extremely eccentric orbit about a body immensely larger than the earth, and has a magnetic field.

About the only similarity is their lack of atmosphere.

Re:Why would they assume Mercury is like the moon? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559812)

Lack of atmosphere,
Cratered surface
Approximately the same size.
Similar albedos
Rotation is in tidal resonance with their primary
Both covered with maria and evidence of lava flooding
Both potentially have water ice in their polar craters

Nothing alike at all!

Re:Why would they assume Mercury is like the moon? (1)

somaTh (1154199) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559942)

I guess what he's really trying to say here is "That's no moon"

And if you didn't see the joke coming, shame on you.

Re:Why would they assume Mercury is like the moon? (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560078)

And the densities are completely different, meaning that the composition and internal structure are entirely different.

When you think about it, the similarities of two planets depends upon the features that you characterize them by. So we say the Moon and Mercury look similar because of their cratered surface that is largely the by product of having no atmosphere. (And a few other factors.) We say that Earth and Mars look similar since they both show evidence of tectonic activity, volcanism, and erosion. (And a few other factors.) But the reality is that these are all very different places if we look at other features, like density (thus overall composition), the similarities become trivial.

Re:Why would they assume Mercury is like the moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560198)

WHOOSHBAG!

Re:Why would they assume Mercury is like the moon? (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560308)

Let's just say they are exactly the same except for the differences, and leave it at that.

Re:Why would they assume Mercury is like the moon? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#37562206)

I suppose that there isn't really any great difference between any two random hominids, either.

blueish? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37559562)

The article has a "colourised" picture to highlight the features. I don't think the features are actually blue.........

Re:blueish? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559640)

The article has a "colourised" picture to highlight the features. I don't think the features are actually blue.........

You've ruined my vacation plans! I hope you are happy! >=(

Re:blueish? (4, Informative)

sighted (851500) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559642)

The images you're referring to are enhanced (stretched) color, not false color. According to the official release, the hollows are "very bright and have a blue color relative to other areas of Mercury." As one image caption from NASA explains, "the enhanced-color locator image emphasizes the high reflectance and relatively blue color."

Re:blueish? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560436)

The images you're referring to are enhanced (stretched) color, not false color. According to the official release, the hollows are "very bright and have a blue color relative to other areas of Mercury." As one image caption from NASA explains, "the enhanced-color locator image emphasizes the high reflectance and relatively blue color."

Stretched color is false color and a color may be relatively blue without being blue at all. On top of that, because of the way our eyes work (auto white balancing, etc), it's almost impossible to take an image on another planet and accurately render it.

Re:blueish? (3, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560828)

it's almost impossible to take an image on another planet and accurately render it.

No harder than it is to do the same with an image from our own planet.

Re:blueish? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37565156)

They are using imaging systems that aren't intended to pick up light the way the human eye sees it. But yes, the fact that it's on Mercury (*wiggle fingers mysteriously*) doesn't have any bearing.

Re:blueish? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37572166)

On top of that, because of the way our eyes work (auto white balancing, etc), it's almost impossible to take an image on another planet and accurately render it.

Maybe I'm missing something, but how can this be? After all, I can go to CostCo and buy a really nice DSLR digital camera for a few hundred dollars, take it just about anywhere, click some photos, and those images when viewed on a decent monitor or printed out will look pretty close to what that place looked liked to my own eyes. Obviously, there's a few minor differences in exactly what wavelengths my eyes can see, and how sensitive they are at various wavelengths, compared to the camera's image sensor, but it's close enough.

So why can't you take that same camera (maybe with a clear protective case like you'd use for underwater photography), send it to another planet, and take photos there showing what the place would look like to human eyes (the same as if a human actually traveled there and looked at the place with his own eyes)?

I suspect there's no reason you can't do this, and the only reason they don't is because it would simply be too boring-looking (e.g., everything on Mars would just look red, everything on Venus would just look yellow (until the camera melted from the heat!), everything in most other places would just look gray, etc. So they use image sensors that aren't matched to the human eye at all, and instead are tuned to the environment they'll be used in, so they can get more useful information. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Re:blueish? (1)

philpalm (952191) | more than 2 years ago | (#37561302)

Bluish color formations suggests copper. However maybe the smurfs have a mercury colony.....

Blue String Soup (1)

slashnik (181800) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559588)

A little higher res and we will be able to make out the blue string soup

Re:Blue String Soup (3, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559712)

A little higher res and we will be able to make out the blue string soup

It would have been great if on one of these planets we saw something moving around ... sure would be a kick in the ol' Space Program, then, eh?

Re:Blue String Soup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560282)

You don't need higher res photos, just let the folks from CSI enhance the images. Then we'll be able to see the shadows that the blue stuff create.

You dropped a Clanger there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560986)

A little higher res and we will be able to make out the blue string soup

You don't need higher res photos, just let the folks from CSI enhance the images. Then we'll be able to see the shadows that the blue stuff create.

Here's the Official CSI Enhancement [realhhg.com] . Looks like Slashnik was right!

(Do you reckon they made it off the moon and felt right at home on Mercury? I guess it's a bit warmer there, probably their equivalent of a couple of weeks in Spain.)

Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37559606)

Maybe it's global warming?

The electric universe guys must be thrilled. (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559632)

Those pits look a lot like erosion from plasma arcs.

Re:The electric universe guys must be thrilled. (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560204)

Mercury is the gateway electrode that allows the Sun to direct Plasma Arcs out into the solar system when the occupants of the planets stop taking care of the property.

How is Mercury "just like the Moon"? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559634)

So, what properties do Mercury and the Moon share? They're pretty close to the same size (I suppose, though not really), and don't have (much of) an atmosphere. Other than that, there is a massive difference in temperature, density, gravity, radiation, and composition (at the very least). The moon, for instance, it mostly silicate, while Mercury is more metallic.

Oh yeah, and one is a planet while the other is a moon. Slight difference, I know, just thought I'd point it out.

PS anyone else ever get annoyed by how Wikipedia is inconsistent in how it lists statistics for planetary bodies? Drives me nuts when trying to make comparisons, or even just get useful information.

Re:How is Mercury "just like the Moon"? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559792)

So, what properties do Mercury and the Moon share?

They are both hell holes.

I have evidence for Mercury right here:

Spectrometers also reveal substantially higher abundances of sulfur and potassium than previously predicted.

New data from orbit show a huge expanse of volcanic plains surrounding the north polar region of Mercury. These continuous smooth plains cover more than 6% of the total surface of Mercury.

Scientists have also discovered vents, measuring up to 25 kilometers (km) (15.5 miles) in length, that appear to be the source of some of the tremendous volumes of very hot lava that have rushed out over the surface of Mercury and eroded the substrate, carving valleys and creating teardrop-shaped ridges in the underlying terrain.

Now MESSENGER's orbital mission has provided close-up, targeted views of many of these craters. The bright areas are composed of small, shallow, irregularly shaped depressions that are often found in clusters said David T. Blewett, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and lead author of one of the Science reports. "The science team adopted the term 'hollows' for these features to distinguish them from other types of pits that are found on Mercury."

Hollows have been found over a wide range of latitudes and longitudes, suggesting that they are fairly common across Mercury. Many of the depressions have bright interiors and halos, and Blewett says the ones detected so far have a fresh appearance and have not accumulated small impact craters, indicating that they are relatively young.

Re:How is Mercury "just like the Moon"? (4, Funny)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560248)

PS anyone else ever get annoyed by how Wikipedia is inconsistent in how it lists statistics for planetary bodies? Drives me nuts when trying to make comparisons, or even just get useful information.

Yeah. I wish there was a way to change that.

Re:How is Mercury "just like the Moon"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37561108)

PS anyone else ever get annoyed by how Wikipedia is inconsistent in how it lists statistics for planetary bodies? Drives me nuts when trying to make comparisons, or even just get useful information.

Yeah. I wish there was a way to change that.

Tried it, got reverted.

Re:How is Mercury "just like the Moon"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37561564)

[citation needed]

Re:How is Mercury "just like the Moon"? (2)

ProzacPatient (915544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37561950)

Yeah. I wish there was a way to change that. [citation needed]

Re:How is Mercury "just like the Moon"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37564890)

PS anyone else ever get annoyed by how Wikipedia is inconsistent in how it lists statistics for planetary bodies? Drives me nuts when trying to make comparisons, or even just get useful information.

Yeah. I wish there was a way to change that. And not get it reverted by some page-sitting Wikimoron.

FTFY.

Re:How is Mercury "just like the Moon"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37562272)

Oh yeah, and one is a planet while the other is a moon. Slight difference, I know, just thought I'd point it out.

That actually is a rather slight difference. The Moon is different from planets in that it appears to have been formed from its coorbital planet, but it also differs from most moons in that respect.

Compare Phobos and Deimos, for example, with asteroids (or minor planets, as they are also known) -- does their orbiting Mars make them in any significant way different? Likewise, the Galilean moons of Jupiter have far more in common with terrestrial planets and dwarf planets than with the dozens of irregular moons orbiting the same planet, or even the four lumpy inner moons.

Tangential Beatles reference (1)

medcalf (68293) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559910)

Odd. It doesn't look blueish.

recursive tangental reference (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559946)

But does it have matched luggage?

Re:Tangential Beatles reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37562134)

Do english people ever get tired of taking it up the arse?

it's great to be alive in 1960 (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37559922)

Amazing that probes now enable us to learn what the planets of our solar system are really like.

I predict that, within our lifetimes, the United States will routinely send astro-men into orbit and, perhaps, one day to the moon.

Re:it's great to be alive in 1960 (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560258)

>>> I predict that, within our lifetimes, the United States will routinely send astro-men into orbit and, perhaps, one day to the moon.

I believe that the government will fake it and then say they did . . .

Re:it's great to be alive in 1960 (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 2 years ago | (#37565958)

Fairly sure that if we can send probes to other planets there won't be any need to send astro-men.

Re:it's great to be alive in 1960 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37569672)

someone tell that mad Kennedy then! Surely if we pour the money we could save on astro-men into viable businesses like agriculture and shipping, progress will grow exponentially over 1970's, 1980's and 1990's. What good could possibly come from developing rocket control?

Re:it's great to be alive in 1960 (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 2 years ago | (#37572088)

We can't expect that Kennedy would have realised the future direction of technology anymore then, say, Queen Victoria could have proposed aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy or Churchill the transistor. Nevertheless of course when Kennedy wanted something big to prove American supremacy, NASA proposed sending a probe to Mars - Mars being scientifically, a place of interest. But Kennedy wanted something showy and heroic and so went with a moon landing.

But I wonder if these days, such displays of macho nationalism (crudely called 'dick waving') would impress anybody.

"Weird little world" (2)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 2 years ago | (#37559992)

Come on, admit it. The weirdest little world in this solar system is by far the one infected with humans.

Re:"Weird little world" (2)

sighted (851500) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560390)

"Transmission" by The Perry Bible Fellowshiop: http://pbfcomics.com/248/ [pbfcomics.com]

Re:"Weird little world" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560858)

If /. ever needed a "Like" link it would be for posts like this.

Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560030)

looks like... Copper Hydroxide being cooked?

Blue Cheese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560102)

It's made of Cheese just like the moon.

TV Dinners (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560310)

"I even like the chicken if the sauce is not too blue."

- ZZ Top

Hmmm ... (1)

niks42 (768188) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560388)

Those blast points are too accurate for sand people ..

Re:Hmmm ... (1)

jezwel (2451108) | more than 2 years ago | (#37561842)

Yet - after watching the new BD versions - Imperial Storm Troopers seem to be about the worst shooters in that far away galaxy.

Andromeda Strain? (1)

emm-tee (23371) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560506)

It reminds me of the superb 1971 film The Andromeda Strain directed by Robert Wise. The virus in the film came from space and under a microscope is seen to grow. The new image of Mercury in the National Geographic article looks eerily like the growing virus... Sadly I can't find an image for this at the moment.

Re:Andromeda Strain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37561762)

It was also a book.

Re:Andromeda Strain? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#37564794)

The new image of Mercury in the National Geographic article looks eerily like the growing virus

Apart from a small difference in scale.

Vorlons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37560574)

Its in one of the Babylon 5 books - There are deep shafts created by Vorlon ships.

According to the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy (1)

Brainman Khan (1330847) | more than 2 years ago | (#37560648)

Hooloovoo

A Hooloovoo is a hyperintelligent shade of the colour blue.

Little is known of them, except that one participated in the construction of the starship Heart of Gold. At the launching ceremony one was temporarily refracted into a free-standing prism. This is probably analogous to the ceremonial multicoloured lab coats worn by the rest of the team.

Coolest thing I've seen all week (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 2 years ago | (#37561220)

Makes that slashdot subscription worth every penny!

Pictures (1)

BattleApple (956701) | more than 2 years ago | (#37561922)

Pictures [nasa.gov] would be nice

i know! (1)

illestov (945762) | more than 2 years ago | (#37563908)

is it ..... MERCURY?

Impact events (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 2 years ago | (#37564424)

"What's more, the hollows look distinctly fresh, because they haven't been reshaped by later impact events."

I don't pretend to know more than an astronomer, but doesn't the Sun catch a lot of things that would otherwise fly into Mercury ?

Re:Impact events (1)

jwilso91 (1920940) | more than 2 years ago | (#37565602)

I don't pretend to know more than an astronomer, but doesn't the Sun catch a lot of things that would otherwise fly into Mercury ?

Perhaps more accurately, the Sun sucks a lot of things into Mercury. The planet is a vacuum bag on the Solar system's most impressive Hoover.

Geological Process? (1)

tillerman35 (763054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37566002)

MESSENGER revealed an unexpected class of landform on Mercury and suggest that a previously unrecognized geological process is responsible for its formation. I'm not an astrophysicist. Doesn't "Geological" refer specifically to Earth? The "Geo" comes from "Gaea," the Greek personification of Earth. Mercury would be something like "Hermeticological" I would think. I got this from a sci-fi book (one of Heinlien's, if I recall correctly), so don't jump on me if it's incorrect.

Re:Geological Process? (1)

Convector (897502) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569432)

Yeah, techincally there's a different name for Earth sciences on each planet (or other celestial body), but in practice nobody uses them. It just sounds awkward and the scientific principles are the same on other planets. So you have "Martian Geoid" instead of "Areoid", "Mercurian Geology" instead of "Hermeticological", and "Lunar Geography" instead of "Selenography".

Melting away? (1)

nadamucho (1063238) | more than 2 years ago | (#37566750)

Does anybody else think this resembles the result of putting a small, EMPTY, potato chip bag in the microwave for 3-4 seconds? The arcing on the metal instantly melts the plastic, which globs up due to surface tension and shrinks. Try it, you'll like it.

Do people ever re-read what they're about to post? (1)

BrunBoot13 (787805) | more than 2 years ago | (#37567566)

Worse, do the Slashdot editors ever read what they're about to post? What is this gibberish? "has found new findings odd features"

Looks familiar. (1)

Crasoose (1621969) | more than 2 years ago | (#37569856)

Did National Geographic take a close-up picture of my face while I was sleeping?

An odd justaposition of slashdot items (1)

whitroth (9367) | more than 2 years ago | (#37570916)

I just looked at the pictures of the blue hollows - and in addition to finding the landscape awfully regular, almost like a pattern of crystallization, it struck me that the layout of the hollows also looked a *lot* like the article from yesterday, about checking the pattern of radiation in your microwave oven.

Which leads to the question as to whether they're mapping microwave weather from the Sun.

                mark

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