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Messenger Probe Sends Back Mercury Photos

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the been-a-while-since-we-were-there dept.

NASA 137

arbitraryaardvark writes "NASA's Messenger probe flew past Mercury at a distance of 125 miles. The spacecraft took hundreds of pictures during the pass, updating photos from the now 30-year-old Mariner mission. According to an article at the International Business Times, the probe will eventually settle into orbit around Mercury in 2011. 'The images obtained by the $446 million MESSENGER mission (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) this week contain some of those unexplored areas. One image released Saturday was taken after Messenger made its closest approach to Mercury last week. In the photos released this week, scientists have observed unexplored cratered areas of the planet. On Monday, Messenger made its closest approach to Mercury yet, aiming for new discoveries. Among its goals is to discover if Mercury has ice water in its polar craters and to complete the mapping of the whole planet.' Meanwhile here on Earth, a joint EU/Japan probe with an ion drive is set to head towards Mercury sometime in 2013."

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Now that's engineering (5, Funny)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121042)

Leave it to the engineers at NASA: It's not enough that the probe is going to send messages back from an alien world. It's not enough that the world in question is Mercury, who was the messenger of the Roman gods. No. They have to make it an acronym.

Engineers or marketeers? (4, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121326)

Real engineers wouldn't care if it was called project 11-A-004. Likely the name came for manager/spin-people spending hours and hours in meetings and focus groups, costing tax payers about $5.7 million.

Re:Engineers or marketeers? (5, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121544)

And yet, would it be funded by Congress if it didn't get an easy-to-remember name? Would the USAPATRIOT act have been voted up to the White House if it was simply voted on as HR3162 or "Ashcroft's Wet Dream Panopticon Act of 2001"? Sometimes it takes a bit of focus testing and a shiny veneer of shinola to get approval from those who have the power but not the understanding.

Re:Engineers or marketeers? (2, Insightful)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121678)

Engineers seem to be at the top of groups 'most' often afflicted with bad pun syndrome, so I wouldn't put it past them.

Re:Engineers or marketeers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22123200)

No doubt. Engineers are human, and project oriented. I've always come up with a name for the project I'm on, and sometimes it's accepted by upper management and used. My former manager, an old guard engineer, is one of the worst punsters I've met.

Upper management provided the worst acronym ever inflicted at a company where I worked: Advanced Semiconductor Single Wafer Processing Equipment group - yes, folks, the ASSWiPEs...

COLOR PHOTOS PLEASE? (1, Insightful)

sanman2 (928866) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122090)

Where's the damn color? I don't understand why after all these decades, it's so hard for them to take color photos. Just slap a damn Sony camcorder on there if you have to, and take some regular color pictures, to show what our own eyes would perceive if we were there.

Re:COLOR PHOTOS PLEASE? (1)

solitas (916005) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122178)

Eh - color, shmolor. Rocks are rocks.

HOWEVER, I think it would REALLY kick ass if they could correlate the old photos with the new ones and look for signs of changes on the surface!

Re:COLOR PHOTOS PLEASE? (patience) (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122238)

Where's the damn color? I don't understand why after all these decades, it's so hard for them to take color photos.

They probably didn't have time to take many images of the same spots through multiple filters. However, when the probe eventually settles into orbit in the coming years, they will be able to start such an endeavor.

Different filters are primarily to study chemical composition, but can also be used to make nifty color images (like this moon one) [atalaia.org] .

In short, be patient. This mission has only just begun...
   

Re:COLOR PHOTOS PLEASE? (patience) (3, Interesting)

solitas (916005) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122694)

A similar hyper-color image of the Moon (that makes a nice desktop/background): http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap060907.html [nasa.gov]

Re:COLOR PHOTOS PLEASE? (patience) (2, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122810)

I should note that the link I gave did not use color filters, but rather regular color photography, and stacked up several dozens in order to tease the color out. One advantage of filters is that you can capture more colors and wavelength range than the human eye can see. (Theoretically color film like that could be made, but it would be useless for consumer use, unless you are a bird or a fish.)
       

Re:COLOR PHOTOS PLEASE? (2, Informative)

ianare (1132971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22124484)

From what this page [nasa.gov] says, these will be turned to color images later. They take the same picture at 10 different wavelengths then combine them to make a color image.

Re:Now that's engineering (5, Interesting)

CougMerrik (1221450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122826)

"(MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging)"


That is one of the most ridiculous abuses of acronym creation I have ever seen.

HUGE NIGGERS SPOTTED (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121100)

ALERT
ALERT

Vote Ron Paul in 2008, friends of Slashdot.

The dark side of Mercury (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121106)

My God.
It's full of niggers.

Miles? (0, Troll)

quenda (644621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121116)

125 Miles?? Have they not learnt their lesson over at Mars?
Its the 21st century damnit, and these guys are still in the 19th.

Re:Miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121262)

When another agency besides NASA is able to land on Mars, please come back and let us know. So far the lesson seems to be that NASA can land working probes, and purely metric countries can only leave smoldering craters.

Every troll deserves a good flame, or it wouldn't be Slashdot.

Re:Miles? (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121314)

To be fair, NASA has left it's fair share of craters as well. And doesn't NASA use the metric system?

Re:Miles? (1)

ezzthetic (976321) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122424)

And doesn't NASA use the metric system?

That would explain why you can't order a Quarter Pounder with Cheese there.

Re:Miles? (2, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121402)

Well, even NASA has [wikipedia.org] problems [wikipedia.org] with missions [wikipedia.org] around this planet, during manned missions that should be held to a much higher standard.

(Not to mention problems with a mission [wikipedia.org] that was just doing training on the ground)

But, the Mars Rovers [wikipedia.org] , Apollo 11 [wikipedia.org] , and this mission are examples where NASA gets stuff very right.

(I hope I am not just putting gasoline and a lit fusee on the fire [flickr.com] , like my dad is doing to that car there)

Re:Miles? (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121752)

Mars3, Russia 1971

Re:Miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121806)

Mars 3?!? The one that hit the planet at about 100 km/hr and stopped transmitting after less than 15 seconds? That was a great success! With accomplishments like that, who could ever expect to compete? Except, perhaps with a lander that worked?

I don't mean to diminish the success of the great Soviet Unions Mars exploration program, but the Viking Landers didn't do so bad themselves. I mean, almost 10 years of operations on the ground is hardly something to compare to a half-assed lander that only lasted 15 seconds, but it isn't that bad either. Oh, and add in another couple of months for Sojourner and another 8 years with the MERs. I'd say that NASA is starting to catch up with Russia.

Re:Miles? (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121892)

I wasn't saying there was any catching up to do. The post I replied to asked for another agency that landed something on mars. Mars 3 apparently landed intact and died of other causes shortly after.

Re:Miles? (1)

antic (29198) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122578)

That cause being one of the Decepticons perhaps?

Re:Miles? (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 6 years ago | (#22123328)

Let's be serious here , I could have done better then Russia did by strapping some rockets and a transmitter to a camcorder and launching it from my back yard.

Nasa is very far ahead of Russia or the Soviet Union , or what ever they want to be called this month.

Insert russian joke here:

In Soviet Russia the probes probe you !

Re:Miles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22123514)

Sounds like it was a very one sided game.
(What sport was it again?)

Re:Miles? (0)

beckerist (985855) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122314)

Technically the Soviet Union [wikipedia.org] beat us all to the surface. To be even more frank, the ESA [esa.int] has since made it to Titan, a moon around Saturn, a planet 6 times further away...

Sorry man I'm proud to be an American but I've never been impressed with our space program...

Never been impressed? (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122452)

To be even more frank, the ESA has since made it to Titan

Well, they did have a little help hitching a ride on the NASA/JPL Cassini spacecraft and the Lockmart Titan IV Centaur. With all that they screwed up development of Huygen's radio transmitter ignoring the doppler effect between Cassini and the probe. This was fixed by NASA by redesigning the Huygen's landing. ESA still screwed up the entry losing half of the returned data. If you aren't impressed by the US program one wonders whose you are impressed with? China? NASA has an absolute armada of spacecraft throughout the solar system. No other nation comes close.

Re:Never been impressed? (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122710)

Ha!
You forget that the best space agency out there is Australian!
http://www.woomera.com.au/ [woomera.com.au]
Ermmm.... Well, it was pretty big in the 60's I hear.

Re:Miles? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121414)

125 Miles?? Have they not learnt their lesson over at Mars?

Its the 21st century damnit, and these guys are still in the 19th.
They report it in miles. NASA has already converted over to metric. In fact they were converted over in the 90s (though obviously not all subcontractors were). The only reason you are hearing this in miles is because the public affairs officials think you are too stupid to understand kilometers.

too stupid? yes and no (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22122422)

"the public affairs officials think you are too stupid to understand kilometers"

Unless you are...
- raised on the metric system
- currently in school and dealing with metrics
- are or were in the army (klicks ftw)
- are in a scientific field primarily using the metric system

chances are that yes, you are indeed too stupid to understand kilometers.

Now don't get me wrong - not saying you're too stupid to calculate how many miles a given kilometers figure would be... but just because you can do the math doesn't mean you grasp the concept.

If somebody tells me something is 350 miles away then I, for one, wouldn't have the foggiest how far that would be right that very instant. I have to calculate.. (350*1.5 is 525, add another 10%, 525+35...) 560. Okay, I know how far that is. Now that calculation takes place pretty fast, but it still needed to be done.
If somebody tells me something is 350 kilometers away, I know immediately how far that is*

So it's not that people are truly too stupid to be able to say how many miles a given kilometer figure is - it's just 'instantly' recognizable for people if it's in the unit they're used to

* to a limit, of course. I don't know how far 7800 kilometers is - I don't have any frame of reference for figures that large. Similarly, 45nanometer processes are lost on me in terms of scale.. I just know it's really, really, really f'ing small, and about 2/3rds the size of a 65nm process.

Re:Miles? (1)

ubernostrum (219442) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121812)

Yeah, if only the US would adopt a sensible policy, like confiscating non-metric measuring equipment and levying huge fines on people who still sell fruit in obsolete "pounds", we'd be able to catch up to the high standards set by other, more enlightened countries.

Re:Miles? (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121854)

It's the 21st century damnit, and people don't use the word "learnt" anymore.

Re:Miles? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22125262)

It's the 21st century damnit, and people don't use the word "learnt" anymore.

Ha! You clearly haven't heard of the recent 'abandoned' irregular verbs revival. "Learned" is so 2007, man.

Mercury = moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121130)

Why does it look like the moon?

why is it in black & white?

Re:Mercury = moon? (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121266)

Because they are recycling the sound stage footage of the moon landing, duh!

Fake photos (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121358)

The fakes were made by the same people who faked the moon landings, so what do you expect?

But really, I'm disappointed. How many millions of dollars and how much waiting just to see more photos of a vaguely spherical object with lots of cratering. This is not the 90s folks. They really need to make flashier pictures if they want to get the public interest.

Re:Fake photos (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121550)

Korzybsky posted some excellent renderings of Mars using flashplayer here [tinyurl.com] .
Granted, it's a mock-up, but still very interesting.

Re:Fake photos (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121868)

FYI
Don't click, links to MyMinyCity.

Re:Fake photos (1)

chitokutai (758566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121690)

I agree that HD color photos from all over the galaxy would be nice, but if the fact that man has been able to reliably send a probe to a planet 48 million miles away AND send pictures back still isn't enough to amaze people, I don't think anyone is going to care if there are pictures in the first place.

Every time I read stories like this, I'm just totally astounded. Working at NASA might be boring on a day to day basis, but the work they're doing is unbelievable.

Re:Fake photos (1)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121946)

But really, I'm disappointed. How many millions of dollars and how much waiting just to see more photos of a vaguely spherical object with lots of cratering. This is not the 90s folks. They really need to make flashier pictures if they want to get the public interest.

This is an interesting point. The Messenger probe was sent to do science, not to get flashy pictures for NASAs' PR department. Yet, most people wouldn't give a damn without their new desktop wallpapers, and public interest is necesary to get funding. Most of those lovely fake color/composite pictures of nebulae and such are fairly useless for anything else than looking cool (and they do :).

Anyway, i found those pictures very interesting [nasa.gov] , and i know i'm not alone. Thing is, most people are sadly used to images from planet probing, even when those pictures involve impressive technical feats. In that sense, maybe we're a bit overdue for a manned mission to another planet (Mars?).

Re:Fake photos (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#22124516)

Yeah, they'd better Photoshop some lens flares here ASAP! :-p

Not all science looks "exciting", but can still learn scientists a lot. In this case, they're trying to see how the Mercuy geology formed. If you want flashier pictures, they've sent people to the Moon, rovers to Mars, and even a probe to Titan. That last one was more like disappointment to me. I thought it was unfortunate it couldn't carry a higher resolution camera, because the environment looked amazing with rivers and lakes of methane and all that! But I guess it was due to bandwidth constraints and having it survive for long enough to report back. But in this case... We all knew what Mercury would most likely look like. How is this a disappointment?

Re:Mercury = moon? (4, Insightful)

Dan Schulz (1144089) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121442)

Why does it look like the moon?
Because like with every other terrestrial world in the inner solar system, it's been bombarded by meteors, asteroids and the like for over four billion years. Combine that with the lack of any real atmosphere (yes, I know about the thin hydrogen atmosphere, but let's be serious for a moment, shall we?), you're not going to have enough meteorological energy (weather) to start eroding those craters. Same with geological activity (there likely isn't any). Besides, given the large apparent size of the planet's core, this may be all that's left of the world.

why is it in black & white?
I'm not an engineer, but I think they went with B/W images to actually get better results with the camera. I'm sure there are a few engineers here and I know there are people who know a lot more about this particular subject than I do, so I'll let them explain further if they chooes to. Hope that helps.

Surface is gray (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122232)

I'm not an engineer, but I think they went with B/W images to actually get better results with the camera.

The surface is nearly colorless (gray), like the moon. So images in all wavelengths they look about the same. Particulate surfaces that are highly gardened by meterite strikes tend to be like that. Perhaps thermal IR or X ray florescence would show more variation.

Re:Surface is gray (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22125218)

The surface is nearly colorless

Can you back that claim? Besides, it doesn't seem like it's actually grey, considered this photograph [wikipedia.org] with approximated colours and most illustrations and maps of Mercury that show it as brownish.

Re:Mercury = moon? (4, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22125240)

I think they went with B/W images to actually get better results with the camera.

No. The NASA doesn't use cameras with Bayer grids (pixel-sized red, green and blue filters) as we have in normal cameras because they care about much more than just visible colours so they have an unfiltered camera and they rotate before its lens a bunch of filters that includes red, green and blue filters but also infra-red and ultraviolet as well as polarized filters. The pictures we see are in B&W because as of now they didn't yet put together pictures taken with different filters in order to produce true or "false" colour images.

Re:Mercury = moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121516)

Why does it look like the moon?

why is it in black & white?
The crater density is much much higher than the Moon. This is due to the fact that Mercury doesn't have the extensive lava plains that obliterate craters on the Moon and because the impact rate is proportional to r^-3/2 (though you do need to take into account the difference in escape velocities for comparing two objects). To someone who understands planetary science they look very different. You need to get a photo of the Moon [wikipedia.org] and put it next to the photo of Mercury [wikipedia.org] . The difference is astounding.

Re:Mercury = moon? (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121726)

No kidding. You'd think for $440+ Million they could afford to put a nice color camera on that thing...

Re:Mercury = moon? (1)

leenks (906881) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121876)

Yeah, there were loads of really stable digital colour cameras of a suitable size to fit on the probe back in 1973. IIRC the cameras do have colour filters though, so photos could be combined to give a colour image if needed.

Re:Mercury = moon? (2, Informative)

Ruie (30480) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122414)

Why does it look like the moon?
- very thin atmosphere

why is it in black & white?
- these cameras typically have no filters or can only shoot one filter at a time. This gives better sensitivity and resolution at the expense of being able to make simultaneous multi-spectrum shots.

Also take a look at this image [nasa.gov] - the scattering of pixels in the top left part if the picture is not dust on your monitor but actual stars as seen by the spacecraft ! I wonder if it is possible to find out from this when the shot was taken and where the camera was pointing.

Re:Mercury = moon? (2, Informative)

carbon116 (792624) | more than 6 years ago | (#22124456)

I don' think those dots are stars. They probably wouldn't show up on a photos like this, especially seeing as Mercury is probably *very* bright because it's so much closer to the sun than us. I suspect there is actually a bit of processing going on the dim the photos to make sure they're not washed out.

I think it's either just noise from the camera, or possibly the effect of cosmic rays hitting the camera CCD. This is something that effects anything leaving Earth's protective atmosphere, and causes astronauts (especially Apollo astronauts) to see random flashes in their eyes as the cosmic rays hit the receptors at the back of the eyeball.

A bit of explanation here:
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mir_lights_030416.html [space.com]

Re:Mercury = moon? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22125278)

I think it's either just noise from the camera, or possibly the effect of cosmic rays hitting the camera CCD.

Considered out these supposed 'stars' consists in single pixels, and not a pack of 4 pixels as it should be due to anti-alisaing (if we can put it that way), the cosmic rays explanation sounds better.

Re:Mercury = moon? (3, Funny)

madhuri (1014279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122554)

why is it in black & white?
NASA's going for that 'vintage' look that's all the rage now. Black and white just has a certain classiness that color can't rival.

95% of Mercury's dark side is criminal (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121134)

Sincerely,
Ron Paul

good editing by zonk (1)

arbitraryaardvark (845916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121160)

submitted story was just:
NASA's Messenger probe flew by Mercury 125 miles away and took pictures, updating 30 year old pioneer 10 photos. Messenger will orbit Mercury in 2011. The ion drive European/Japanese ship doesn't launch till 2013. Wired Bad Astronomer. (y'know, with some some links in there.)

Re:good editing by zonk (1)

arbitraryaardvark (845916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121210)

Oh my bad, story was a dupe, I had forgotten the 1/14/2008 thread. New part here is the photos.

More NASA coverups, please (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121162)

The Niggers and African Spooks Association should force members to cover up their big disgusting lips! Yucky eww!

RON PAUL '08

WELCOME TO N I G G E R D O T (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121172)

Hi!

CmdrNigger

Its so.. grey (0, Flamebait)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121176)

I thought for a moment I was looking at detroit around this time of year.

Obligitory nerd-bashing joke . . . (0, Troll)

mmell (832646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121188)

If these scientists wanted to discover unexplored craters, they need merely have looked at the acne scars on each others faces.

Ba-dum, ching.

Seriously, it's intriguing - personally, I'd rather see the energy and capital investment spent on something with a slightly more tangible payoff like the exploration/colonization of Luna/Mars/etc. . . but if closer analysis of Mercury lets astrophysicists devise more accurate models of planetary formation, I suppose there's a value there too.

So, NASA . . . are we there yet?

(Ba-dum, ching)

Good Expense! (1)

KookyMan (850095) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121644)

I had a friend try and tell me that this, and the rest of our space explorations, is a total waste of money.

Personally I'd rather keep throwing things at other planets to learn about them (like MESSENGER [jhuapl.edu] , Spirt & Opportunity (Mars Rovers) [nasa.gov] , or New Horizons (First mission to Pluto, [jhuapl.edu] launched prior to being "deplanetized") [wikipedia.org] , as opposed to dumping the same funds into our war campaign in the Middle East.

This kind of stuff is a lot more... lasting even though its less tangible.

Hey, you misunderstood me there, I think . . . (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121742)

I didn't say I'd like to see the money spent on earthbound enveavours; rather that I was thinking NASA should consider shortening their focus my a decade or two.

The war campaign in the Middle East has nothing to do with this (save that it's wasting perfectly good money which could be used to fund both lines of scientific inquiry about two thousand times over. That's not hyperbole - look up the numbers and crunch 'em - I'll wait).

Doesn't look like a phone to me... (5, Funny)

Vthornheart (745224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121200)

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/multimedia/phone_crater.html [nasa.gov]

NASA says that crater looks like it has a phone shape in it. The first thing I thought was "Damnit, someone put a copyright on Mercury."

Re:Doesn't look like a phone to me... (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121294)

I agree, it's a -lot- closer to a copyright symbol than a phone. They seem to be so determined to make it look like something that they miss the obvious.

Re:Doesn't look like a phone to me... (2, Funny)

KudyardRipling (1063612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121656)

This IP sh!t has got to stop.

It must be the same people who make custom planets like Magrathea. It appears to be one of the rejects as there was a fault in the planetary raw material processing unit when the mantle was being poured. You know, "Segmentation fault - CORE DUMPED". It would be a pisser to see the photoshots on the next flyby reveal the "Made in Taiwan" imprint.

Downmodding proves veracity beyond question. Not responsible for soy latte spat on keyboard or excretory incontinence.

Obligatory.... (2, Funny)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121452)

The first thing I thought was "Damnit, someone put a copyright on Mercury."
this is most definitely proof of intelligent design. LOOK! God even put a copyright on it!

Re:Obligatory.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121582)

The real proof will be if the big guy's IP lawyers send a cease-and-desist letter to NASA for putting the pictures on the web :-)

Re:Doesn't look like a phone to me... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122258)

NASA says that crater looks like it has a phone shape in it. The first thing I thought was "Damnit, someone put a copyright [symbol] on Mercury."

Just wait 'til we find the "Made in China" label. Sputnik's scare will look wimpy in comparison.
       

Re:Doesn't look like a phone to me... (1)

Himring (646324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122532)

That phone is obviously evidence of intelligent life. It was surely used by the same aliens who did the face on mars.... It is probably how the two planets communicated with each other....

Re:Doesn't look like a phone to me... (1)

tomatensaft (661701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22125064)

Turn the image around. See? It's licensed under a Creative Commons' license!

Looks like moon... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121272)

LAME

Re:Looks like moon... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122296)

Actually, the moon copied Mercury because it had Planet Envy.
       

Spreading resources a little thin? (1)

Wicko (977078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121300)

First time I heard about sending a probe to mercury.. I would have thought that would be the least interesting of the planets round these parts. With operations as expensive as these, wouldn't they want to focus their resources on Mars or something?

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121384)

I imagine that many people thought the same about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, until Voyager started sending back pictures of Europa and Io. You never know where the next big insight is going to come from, and Mercury's had little enough attention for it to be worth a look. Mars is pretty substantially covered. That said, in the current funding climate (NASA's had to cancel projects left, right, and centre due to cuts to its thin post-Iraq budget), nobody would approve a mission to a rock like Mercury.

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121534)

That said, in the current funding climate (NASA's had to cancel projects left, right, and centre due to cuts to its thin post-Iraq budget)...
FYI, "centre" is used when talking about a physical place, such as the "Centre for the Performing Arts". What you mean to say is "center" as in "the point in a circle's interior which is equidistant to the circumference". Misspelling that as "centre" either indicates your first language is French and you don't know or forgot to translate that word, or that you're a Euro-poseur trying to make yourself sound more intelligent.
 

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121838)

No, "center" is the American spelling. Other English-speakers, such as the English, spell it "centre".

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121996)

GP is correct usage for British English.

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122792)

Center = center of a circle
Centre = A building or a complex like a Community Centre.

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121388)

Considering the problems of the seafloor, at this point we have better maps of Mars than Earth. A lot of effort has been spent on Mars. Meanwhile, Mercury, Venus and Pluto are all more or less unexplored. For Venus, even sending probes don't help us too far, go inside the atmosphere and the equipment is destroyed, stay outside and you don't see all that much. Pluto and Mercury, well, it's just a matter of getting around to actually go there. I think it's wise to do so now. I find the simple prospect of possible water ice in cool craters on the surface fascinating.

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121574)

Military people in their not so yellow submarines probably have very accurate maps of the seafloor, but they aren't the sort of guys who will "organize (this) information and make it universally accessible" till a while.

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (2, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121734)

Someone added it up and Mars currently has something like thirteen craft either on, orbiting or enroute to it.

Mercury got three flybys a couple decades a ago, and a hefty chunk of it has never even been seen. What makes Mars so much more interesting than Mercury, besides the fact that it's closer and we might be able to put some astronauts on it?

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (1)

Wicko (977078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121860)

Those reasons you gave alone make it more interesting, IMO. But aside from those, I think mercury is the least interesting, from what I can recall about it.. but I guess it might be the easiest to reach rather than something like jupiter's/saturn's satellites.

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121986)

Maybe most interesting, but so much more interesting that we should send dozens of probes to it and completely neglect other targets? If so then maybe we shouldn't send anything to Saturn or the asteroids either.

There are interesting things about Mercury. To start with, it has a magnetic field and nobody has really figured out why that should be.

Re:Spreading resources a little thin? (1)

vajaradakini (1209944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122692)

Just because we can put people somewhere doesn't make a place more interesting. Mercury has a lot of interesting features, for instance, it's the densest planet, it has a magnetic field (it really shouldn't since its core has likely cooled and solidified long ago), it had a giant impact that caused ridges to form all the way on the other side of the planet et c. Furthermore, it's actually harder to get things in orbit around Mercury due to the fact that it's so close to the sun, this is why the first pass is in 2008 and it's not actually going into orbit around the planet until 2011.

Jokes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121322)

What do you call a black man with a PhD?
Nigger.
 
A black man walks into a pub with a parrot on his shoulder.
The barman says "Where did you get that?"
"In Africa, there's fucking millions of them" says the parrot.
 
What's the safest way to kill a black widow?
Take away her food stamps.
 
What's the most confusing day of the year in the ghetto?
Father's day.
 
A black pupil finishes his first day in 3rd grade and goes home. Talking to his mother, he says "I was the best in the class at maths. Is it because I'm black?"
"Yes, son".
"I was the best in the class at running. Is it because I'm black?"
"Yes, son".
"When we were having showers after sports, I had the largest dick. Is it because I'm black?"
"No son. It's because you're 19"
 
What does NAACP stand for?
National Association of Apelike Cotton Pickers.
 
And now, for equal opportunities racist jokes:
How many Jews can you fit in a Toyota?
2 in the front, 3 in the back and 500 in the ashtray.

Updating the chances of a hit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121406)

... using older mappings.

I wonder what would happen if the universe was hawkish enough and no matter how we look at it, life here is temporary.

Makes me think...
"If you can't take an interest in local affairs, you are a pathetic bloody planet. I have no sympathy for you at all" or something like that... the hitchhikers guide.

Interesting, so ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121714)

Hopkins [jhuapl.edu] and Carnegie [ciw.edu] are doing something people care about? The government better take back that grant money ASAP!

Typical space news (2, Interesting)

a_claudiu (814111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121722)

Am I the only one annoyed about the space news always being something like "xxx mil./bil. $ space stuff was lunched or did something"? I do not recall this kind of obsessive, "not once missed" remark on other type of news. With news like this there is no wonder that people make mistakes [slashdot.org] .

NASA PROVES ALLAH IS GOD & MOHAMMED IS HIS PRO (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22121798)

WHAT THE HEATHEN ZIONIST AMERICAN GOVERNMENT DOES NOT TELL YOU IS THAT DURING MESSENGER'S SPACE-FLIGHT MOHAMMED SHOWED ALLAH'S INFINITE GLORY TO THE PROBE AND THAT MESSENGER SAW THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE PATH. THIS IS THE REASON MESSENGER SET ON A COURSE TO AIM FOR NEW DISCOVERIES.
NOT "its goal is to discover if Mercury has ice water in its polar craters and to complete the mapping of the whole planet" BUT JIHAD AGAINST INFIDELS. THE WILL OF ALLAH WILL SPREAD OVER ALL OF MERCURY AS IT HAS OVER THE BALKAN PENINSULA, AND THE MIGHT OF ALLAH WILL BE PROVEN IN A DISCOVERY OF OIL RESERVES WHICH MESSENGER WILL HUMBLY CLAIM IN THE NAME OF ALLAH AND HIS PROPHET MOHAMMED.

AND NO, IT WON'T BRING GAS PRICES DOWN.

So close... (4, Informative)

PhotoGuy (189467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22121992)

200km, wow! As a point of reference, geosyncrhonous satellites on earth are 36,371 km high, and the best resolution earth imagery satellites are at around 500km.

Re:So close... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22122280)

200km, wow! As a point of reference, geosyncrhonous satellites on earth are 36,371 km high, and the best resolution earth imagery satellites are at around 500km.

It's that pesky Earth atmosphere that keeps them so far. In theory a probe could skim say 1 cm from the surface of Mercury if the aiming was accurate enough because it has no atmosphere. (Actually it has a very thin one, but I don't think its enough to affect close encounters.)
       

Re:So close... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22123558)

Well, that's because we have an atmosphere which would slow them down. Plus, if we want really good images we can send planes so there's not much need.

Re:So close... (1)

HonIsCool (720634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22124104)

It does not have anything to do with atmosphere. A geosynchronous orbit means that the satellite is orbiting around the planet at the same speed as the planet is rotating around it's axis.

Strange lights on Mercury - Geysers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22122940)

I'm assuming those strange lights are geysers of some kind lit up by the sun???

Whats the deal with all the troll posts? (0, Troll)

caeili (859563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22123886)

This place is getting worse than Digg.

Why oh why in black and white? (1)

m0ns00n (943739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22124458)

I noticed the video they made was made from about 4 images. In black and white. And the rest of the photos are in black and white as well. Is NASA still clinging on to the 60s? Why was the earth video so smooth, taken from the same probe? Why were the earth images in color? Why must all other planets out there be black and white? Normal, modern cameras can't even take black and white photos without a post processing filter these days - and I know NASA isn't using normal cameras, but still, Mercury isn't completely greyscale. It would be nice to see the different shades of color even if they were so called "false color" (NASA really is a color blind organization :-)) In my opinion showing all these photos in b/w puts the space mission presentation in a worse light than it would otherwise. I really don't understand why it is so difficult to snap some high resolution color pictures for us to view. Can anyone enlighten me? And don't give me the loaddown that science cameras are color blind and that the infrared is more important, as I really can't accept that it would be so hard to reproduce Mercury in colors in 2008.

Re:Why oh why in black and white? (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#22124766)

Why was the earth video so smooth, taken from the same probe?



Because the probe was only doing a video of Earth then, and not actual science.



Why were the earth images in color?



Because someone had already spent the time and combined multiple monochrome images (taken with different filters) into nice-looking color images.



Why must all other planets out there be black and white?



Because that's how you get the best scientific data (resolution, color resolution, etc)- use a monochrome camera and apply filters for different wavelength.



Normal, modern cameras can't even take black and white photos without a post processing filter these days



"Normal" cameras are optimized to produce pictures that look good, not pictures that are actually useful for science.



It would be nice to see the different shades of color even if they were so called "false color"



The pretty false-color images you know of other planets are actually created by combining several monochrome images (with different filters). Give'em some time and you'll get your eye-candy eventually.



I really don't understand why it is so difficult to snap some high resolution color pictures for us to view. Can anyone enlighten me?



It's not difficult. It would just mean throwing out some actual scientific instruments and install a camera that can take color images with just one exposure ... pretty much a waste of money when you can create pictures that look just a pretty with the imagers that are already installed.



And don't give me the loaddown that science cameras are color blind and that the infrared is more important, as I really can't accept that it would be so hard to reproduce Mercury in colors in 2008.



Well, yeah, I'm sorry for giving you that. Right now, the scientists want a map of the previously unseen parts of Mercury. Sorry that eye-candy isn't very high on their priority list, but they'll get to that eventually.

Re:Why oh why in black and white? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22125180)

The pictures are in black in white because they didn't bother yet to put together pictures from different colour filters together, which is a matter of time before that happens (which makes me wish they would just release the raw images as soon as they get it just as they do with Cassini). As for the smoothness of the approach video, we can assume that they didn't try to make a cool video as they did with the Earth but that they were just trying to get a few shots on the first side of Mercury, and keep most of the ressources to making mosaics of pictures on the as of then yet unknown side of Mercury.

Keep in mind that it doesn't work like your camera too, your camera consists of captors with red, green and blue filters on them. MESSENGER's camera don't have any such thing, they are unfiltered and have a bunch of filters of different colours (including infra-red and ultraviolet colours) that rotates before the camera's lens.

Then *if* the NASA wants to make colour pictures out of them (which presents little scientific interest, which is why they don't bother much to show you coloured pictures), they put together images taken with the red, green and blue filters (or sometimes other filters and label the result "false colours").

And you're right, Mercury is not grey, and actually it seems that we don't even have true colour pictures of it yet (which should change within the next few days), but that [wikipedia.org] is the best approximation we can get yet (but as you can see it's based on only a blue filter and no filter, so the accuracy of the portrayed colours is quite questionable). But as I said don't worry, soon enough we'll get a crapload of super-high res colour mosaics of the planet, and even maybe stereo images and what not.

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