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Messenger Discovers "Spider" Crater on Mercury

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the hey-look-at-that dept.

Space 74

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property brings us a Washington Post story which discusses how scientists are finding surprises among the pictures sent back from Mercury by the Messenger spacecraft. In particular, images depicting a crater with over 100 troughs radiating out from it are stumping researchers. The crater is referred to as 'The Spider', and it occupies a basin that has turned out to be larger than once thought. NASA also has a discussion of the crater. The Messenger craft began taking the up-close photos earlier this month. From the Post: "Scientists were also surprised by evidence of ancient volcanoes on many parts of the planet's surface and how different it looks compared with the moon, which is about the same size. Unlike the moon, Mercury has huge cliffs, as well as formations snaking hundreds of miles that indicate patterns of fault activity from Mercury's earliest days, more than 4 billion years ago."

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first post! (-1, Troll)

stim (732091) | more than 6 years ago | (#22259962)

gnaa rules!

Cosmic Water balloon (2, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22259964)

Its a cosmic water balloon strike.
A comet impacted and splatted its matter all over.

Re:Cosmic Water balloon (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22269144)

I looked at the photo, and it reminded me of what happens when a bug hits a windshield.

B5 (-1, Offtopic)

nievesj (704062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22259976)

The shadows are here!

Hmm... (2, Funny)

jwietelmann (1220240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22259980)

Is it the Great Stone Ass of Mars? []

Re:Hmm... (1)

rJah (1216024) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260010)

Nope. That's way on the other side of the planet...

Re:Hmm... (1)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260022)

How do you say "hello.jpg" in Martian?

Oops. (1)

jwietelmann (1220240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260154)

I don't know how "Mercury" translated to "Mars" in my head, but that is why my previous comment makes pretty much no sense whatsoever.

Re:Hmm... (2, Funny)

audubon (577473) | more than 6 years ago | (#22266240)

Looks like Uranus.

Evidence of Water! (3, Funny)

ErroneousBee (611028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260002)

Clearly, those are water channels running into the crater.

Obviously at some point Mercury was hollow and covered by an ocean, then an asteroid hits, punctures the surface, and the ocean drains into the center of the planet, creating the channels we see today.

Now, I know there are those who will say "but liquid water cant exist that close to the sun".
Well, to those people I say "Its not called Mercury for nothing".

Evidence of Lava! (1)

1_brown_mouse (160511) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260496)

Big impact, super heated rock.

Big splash.

Flow back into depression.

Make dimple shape you see.

Re:Evidence of Water! (0, Troll)

hermit_tries_virtual (1229948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22261056)

Before I render my highly scientific verdict, I would like to point out that I went to public school, and nearly flunked because I would ignore the teachers and just read the stupid books. Because of this I believe that most "science" is just an assortment of well defined lies that we developed in order to receive government research grants. ; )

Verdict: I say that the hotter a planet, the more likely that it would have a large amount of liquids. After all, a "solid" becomes a liquid at high enough heat. You want an simple example? Here you go... lava is just "liquid" rock!!!!

On the reverse side, ice is just "solid" water! As a matter of fact, Pluto is a solid, but if it was closer to the sun, it would be little more than a large pool of liquid!!!

Now that is science...

P.S. "Scientifically" speaking, all matter, despite its state (solid, liquid, gas, and "maybe" plasma) is nothing but a collection of energy. We have not found anything is which, on a subatomic level, is not composed mostly of nothing. None of the sub-atomic "particles" touch each other (photons, neutrons, and electrons do not touch), so everything, at its base level is simply energy that we interpret as being "solid". Ironically (to me at least) in a world that is completely comprised of energy, we say that there is a finite amount of energy to go around....

P.P.S. (Post Post Script!!!)When it is more on topic, I will rant on the "black matter/energy/big bang theory!!!!

Photons (1)

GanjaManja (946130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22263158)

(just to be an anal retentive geek, photons often overlap/"touch" since they are bosons. Remember, these are wave/particles aka. "wavefucntions" so photons Definitely touch, electrons less so but they "touch" too. there's definitely piles of 'empty space' between the electrons and the nucleus, though.)

Re:Evidence of Water! (1)

sky-pipe (1231466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22262834)

I think you're close. The body that crashed into Mercury to create this crater probably generated a lot of heat and energy that spread to the surroundings. This action likely melted something out of the ground (maybe water) and gravity and surface tension did the rest to form these channels down into the crater.

The reason you don't see such effects on the moon is because of the lower gravity preventing pooling, lack of substances to "melt", less atmosphere to heat up the projectile, etc.


Re:Evidence of Water! (1)

arminw (717974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22270630)

.....The body that crashed into Mercury.......

What is striking about almost all of the craters is where the material that was gouged out of the surface went. The areas outside of most craters is devoid of material, both from the impacting object, as well as from the planet. It's as if it left the planet entirely. This is true of even the smaller craters presumably made by relatively low energy events that should not have propelled the fragments fast enough for them to escape the planet's gravity.

Even at the crater in Arizona, not matter foreign to the area was ever found. In 1908, a large section of forest in Siberia was leveled by a huge explosion, thought to be caused by a massive strike from space. However, there also, no foreign matter was found so far. Could these craters on planets be formed by other mechanisms, beside the impact of a big chunk of matter?

Re:Evidence of Water! (1)

sky-pipe (1231466) | more than 6 years ago | (#22275494)

The latest theory of the Siberia 1908 explosion is that the body was so small that it disintegrated/vaporized before it hit the ground. It caused a shock/heat wave that caused severe destruction, but the area directly below the impact site was less damaged than the surrounding areas. I don't have an explanation of where the matter goes, maybe it gets driven into the ground and covered up over time by forces of nature. I'm thinking that there is a lot of heat and energy that plays a factor, but I don't know of what evidence remains, so I can't really speculate. --Dan

Re:Evidence of Water! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22263406)

No, it's evidence of Oil! Also, the Mecury Spiders hate our freedom.

(Maybe that will cause a uptick in the NASA budget...)

Space bugs... (1)

Slur (61510) | more than 6 years ago | (#22269974)

Robert A. Heinlein is ROFL'ing in his grave!

It's Just amazing! (2, Insightful)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260034)

When I think about how far we have come, I am truly amazed. These pictures are from a flyby too! Imagine what we will get when this thing sits in orbit!

Faults from extreme tides, etc (4, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260040)

I thought the faults and crustal weirdness on Mercury was from the Sun's insane gravity warping and distorting the planet as it rotates and revolves around the sun (also - the super-hot temperature causes expansion on the hot side, compression on the cool side).

Re:Faults from extreme tides, etc (4, Informative)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260092)

I wouldn't exactly call it "insane"...the Sun's tidal effects on Mercury are only about 17% greater then the Moon's tidal effects on Earth.

Re:Faults from extreme tides, etc (1, Informative)

kmac06 (608921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260140)

Also Mercury is tidally locked with the sun, so even if there are huge forces, they are constant, not varying.

Re:Faults from extreme tides, etc (4, Informative)

nusuth (520833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260208)

That is incorrect, Mercury is not tidally locked with Sun. It is in 3:2 spin resonance with Sun, therefore the forces vary slowly (change direction twice for every three orbits) but they are not constant.

Re:Faults from extreme tides, etc (1)

kmac06 (608921) | more than 6 years ago | (#22261644)

Oops! I stand corrected.

Re:Faults from extreme tides, etc (1)

nusuth (520833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22263518)

I didn't get it right either, 3:2 spin resonance means three days in two years, not two days in three years.

Tidally Locked? (5, Informative)

DeeVeeAnt (1002953) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260282)

Oh no it isn't! []
"Until radar observations in 1965 proved otherwise, it was thought that Mercury was tidally locked with the Sun. Instead, it turned out that Mercury has a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance, rotating three times for every two revolutions around the Sun; the eccentricity of Mercury's orbit makes this resonance stable. The original reason astronomers thought it was tidally locked was because whenever Mercury was best placed for observation, it was always at the same point in its 3:2 resonance, so showing the same face, which would be also the case if it were totally locked."

Not tidally locked. (1)

nedwidek (98930) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260288)

One year on mercury is 87.97 earth days. One sidereal day is 58.65 earth days. The apparent day if you were on the surface is actually 176 days or 2 mercurial years.

So the tidal tug for whatever its effect, is varying.

Don't feel bad. It's only recently that we learned this and in elementary school I learned the whole tidally locked story too.

Probably Moon was formed later (2, Interesting)

anandsr (148302) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260156)

I think the difference is due to their formation. Mercury I believe was formed naturally out of gas and elements like Earth, and so has volcanoes etc. While Moon is probably a breakaway part of earth, which got formed just before solidification of earth started. So that Moon never had a hot core, and so there was no volcanic activity.

Re:Probably Moon was formed later (2, Informative)

spacemandave (1231398) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260412)

Actually, you have that backwards. The Moon is covered in volcanic features. The dark "seas" are actually huge lava flood plains formed by volcanoes that were active for about a billion years after the Moon's formation. Mercury lacks these extensive volcanic features, likely because Mercury's crust is under compression making it harder for magma to break through and reach the surface. The compression is likely due to Mercury's massive iron core, which shrunk slightly as it cooled shortly after the planet formed.

Re:Faults from extreme tides, etc (1)

H3six (1207060) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260636)

I thought it might be subsidence from ancient lava channels, of course it's very weird looking if it is. It looks like water channels.

Re:Faults from extreme tides, etc (1)

killminus90 (1094581) | more than 6 years ago | (#22261392)

Hey wasn't this an advertisement for the McDLT, Keep the hot side hot and the cool side cool

How surprising really? (1)

imasu (1008081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260060)

Why is it so surprising that Mercury is much different volcanically than the moon? Mercury is substantially closer to the sun (duh), and is in a funky spin resonance/tidal lock with it. Temperature also varies by several hundred degrees across its surface. It doesn't seem that shocking to me that it has different seismic and volcanic parameters than the moon.

more than 4 billion years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22260072)

Really, I think it's more like 6500 BC.

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property (0, Offtopic)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260110)

Who is this guy and why does he have three stories on the front page? Roland reincarnated?

Re:I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property (0, Offtopic)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260130)

Correction: Four.

Re:I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property (0, Offtopic)

Loibisch (964797) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260148)

So what, I find those submissions of him/her pretty interesting. Keep up the good work. :)

Re:I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22260248)

He's either Taco's gay lover or Roland in disguise.
Either way lots of fail.

Re:I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property (1)

EMeta (860558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22261668)

It doesn't really matter to me, because his and Roland's stories are much more likely to be of interest to me than stories from just about any other major submitter (with the possible exception of NewYorkCountryLawyer).

Let's celebrate when someone can consistently send us interesting stuff.

I'm not Roland (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22263460)

Just FYI, I'm not Roland (and he's still submitting stories, BTW). Those guys were out whoring their blogs. I don't have a blog to whore, so I link to things like the EFF's donate page or currently the "I wouldn't steal" page.

So you might say I'm submitting stories to raise awareness of a cause, not unlike NYCL. I don't make a dime from this like Roland & co. were trying to. Also, you may notice that the name is unregistered. Feel free to submit stories in my name. You could consider it a form of living what I believe, because I'm even willing to share my identity.

Basically, it's quite easy to get stories on Slashdot: just trawl the other tech news sites and try to make a semi-decent summary of what you just read, then think up a good headline (which is often _the_ most important part, you can see in this story that they dumped my summary entirely, but they kept the headline). Just pick only the stories that interest you the most. There are LOADS of crap stories that aren't very interesting, but if you submit 3-5 a day (less when there's no real news) you'll probably get at least one story on Slashdot per day.

If nothing else, it's a fun thing to do while slacking off at work :-) Oh, and there are four stories at this moment. I think that's a personal best.

Ziggy Stardust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22260116)

So I guess David Bowie was wrong, the spiders are on Mercury not Mars.

Splat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22260132)

Looks like a simple splat to me. Shards of molten rock thrown out from site of impact.
Why are the researchers so stumped?

Re:Splat (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22261038)

Because when they landed on it, it brought up the Apple command menu.

Looks less like spider (2, Insightful)

jsheedy (772604) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260142)

More like sperm.

Re:Looks less like spider (1)

StuckInSyrup (745480) | more than 6 years ago | (#22288810)

When I saw the image, the first thing I imagined was this: something hits the surface, then lots of wormlike creatures start crawling out of the remnants. Yeah, too many B-movies...

Ground Control to Major Tom (5, Funny)

Ranger (1783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260270)

"The spiders are on not on Mars. Get your ass over to Mercury!"

Re:Ground Control to Major Tom (1)

imasu (1008081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22269516)

Yeah, and where are Weird and Gilly?

Great. (4, Funny)

imnojezus (783734) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260310)

Now I get to have nightmares about "Mercurian Crater Spiders". Thanks Slashdot.

Re:Great. (1)

hermit_tries_virtual (1229948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22262486)

While you see those as nightmares, I will be using this for a new D&D adventure!!!!

P.S. It's just a name, like the Death Zone or the Zone of No Return. All the Zones have names like that in the Galaxy of Terror. -Professor Farnsworth

Re:Great. (1)

Muhammar (659468) | more than 6 years ago | (#22262552)

nah, it's just a harmless Google bot crawling there

spider planet (5, Funny)

razorh (853659) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260374)

Spiderplanet Spiderplanet does whatever a spiderplanet does...

The Shadows are comming. (2, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260394)

It is a Shadow Ship. Hiding for thousands of years. Waiting for the year 2268

Re:The Shadows are comming. (1)

sempernoctis (1229258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22264364)

Waiting for the year 2268
Awesome...we can just leave this for the next generation to deal with...just like Y2K :)

Re:The Shadows are comming. (2, Funny)

N1ck0 (803359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22264864)

Its clearly the impression of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. See for yourself [] the picture and indentations match perfectly.

After creating the universe he surely had to stop somewhere for a brief rest. And we all know that since the 1800 there has been an increase in discovering impact craters, colliding galaxies, planets, black holes, cosmic ray bursts, etc. These number of these events are also in inverse correlation to the amount of pirates remaining on earth. Thus this is proof that the 'pirate effect' is clearly not isolated to our planet.

My Forensic Opinion (3, Interesting)

flyneye (84093) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260408)

Just from what I can see,it looks as though perhaps Mercury isn't as solid underneath its crust as perhaps thought.It looks to me like it was hit causing compression,sunk,then pressure pushed back up causing the cracks which may or may not have guided lava.Mercury,a bad place to visit and I wouldn't wanna live there.

Obligitory, but slightly modded quote (1)

hermit_tries_virtual (1229948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22262634)

Well, in those days Mercury was a dreary uninhabitable wasteland much like Utah; but unlike Utah, Mars was eventually made livable. -Professor

Whatever you do... (1)

notthepainter (759494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260458)

Don't try to escape by flying down the central hole, landing, and then getting out and walking about.

Trust me, it just isn't a good idea.

Spider Critters? (1)

gfilion (80497) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260460)

Am I the only one who got excited when I read "Messenger Discovers "Spider" Critter on Mercury"?

I, for one, welcome our Mercurian Spider Critter Overloads!

That's no spider (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260674)

That's no spider ... it's Cthulhu. I lose 2D4 SAN.

Shadows made a detour (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22260754)

Well, it explains, Shadows are on Mercury, than on MARS - they probably figured, lazy humans will never find out their resting ships till the year 2268. Atleast we know B5 is all true - damn were are Vorlons when you need them...wait - I think they are on Venus. Yes, Venus it is it....

My first thought (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 6 years ago | (#22260888)

was anal fissure.

I'm blaming all the goatse trolls.

Puzzles me too (1)

g4b (956118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22261652)

Pictures sent in Messenger appear sometimes like craters in my kopete, too. Very disturbing.

any geologist woudl call it a volcanic crater (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22262022)

Its just that a several of MESSENGER scientists lack the imagination and experience of a geologist. Keep your mind open for possible volcanics in the past.

Maybe a large "icesteroid" or comet? (1)

MBoffin (259181) | more than 6 years ago | (#22262872)

It's not even funny how far I am from being qualified to make this guess, but I'll do it anyway....

Maybe a large asteroid of ice or large comet hit it on the night side and then melted when Mercury turned the crater to the day side, causing all the runoff to create the crazy channels radiating out from the crater?

Okay, commence ripping this theory to shreds. Ready? Go!

Harmoniums (1)

Larry_The_Canary (1084565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22264050)

Looks like the work of Harmoniums feeding off the vibrations of the impact that created the crater. I guess there were no Chronosynclastically Infundibulated humans around to rearrange the harmoniums to spell 'This is no moon'. /Vonnegut Tribute

Don't worry folks, (1)

finalnight (709885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22264528)

The shadow vessel got lost and will be heading to Mars soon, nothing to see here, move along.

Mercury Spider Crater and Calderas of Venus (1)

StaffInfection (577277) | more than 6 years ago | (#22264848)

If you review radar imagery of the Calderas of Venus, you find similar features to the "Spider" crater of Mercury. IMHO, the Spider is a collapsed Volcano. The interior expands with molten material which then vacates and permits a collapse of the volcanic structure, causing the radial channels. The largest channel appears to be due to a lava flow. Also uncharacteristic of an impact crater is the steepness of the walls and the height of the central peak, i.e. disproportionate to the size of the crater.

sendinronweasley (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 6 years ago | (#22265186)

Hahaha, who tagged this 'sendinronwealsey'?

Meteorite impact and theory about heavy core. (1)

cjellibebi (645568) | more than 6 years ago | (#22265636)

As you know, Mercury is an anomalously heavy planet for such a small object. One widely accepted theory is that sometime in the distant past, Mercury was much bigger and suffered from a collision that ripped away most of Mercury (the abundance of craters means that it must have happened a very long time ago). Recently, we have discovered planetary systems orbiting around other stars. One thing that a lot of these systems feature is a large Jupiter-like gas planet orbiting close to the star. In fact, our solar system is beginning to look anomalous in not having a masive gas-giant close to the sun. I have a theory that Mercury was once a gas-giant that suffered a high-speed collision with a large object. The force of the collision was such that the entire atmosphere of Mercury was ejected into space. The 'spider' in the picture looks like it could have been a meterorite impact that punctured Mercury's crust, but somehow, I doubt it was created by an impact with enough force to rip away a gas-giant-sized atmosphere.

Crematoria (1)

Eun-HjZjiNeD (1001079) | more than 6 years ago | (#22266164)

Mercury looks more and more like crematoria [from ridick] if it had that same kind of reactive surface as crematoria. It once may have had that kind of effect and has simply just exhausted its surface of reactive material. This would explain some of the surface scaring and channels.

Reporter not paying attention (2, Informative)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | more than 6 years ago | (#22268508)

Scientists were also surprised by evidence of ancient volcanoes on many parts of the planet's surface and how different it looks compared with the moon, which is about the same size.
FAIL. Mercury has about 1.4 times the Moon's radius and 4.5 times its mass.

Only eight legs? (1)

TFGeditor (737839) | more than 6 years ago | (#22269182)

Since spiders have only eight legs, wouldn't "Spider Web" be more appropos?

Further, the appearance suggests the fracturing of a hard surface. Is the surface glassine in nature?

A deepness in the sky (1)

b0nafide (1229682) | more than 6 years ago | (#22269292)

i keep thinking about Vernor Vinge's Book [] because of this thread.

Spider? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22273300)

It looks more like a sea urchin to me.

"Spider"? (1)

CptPicard (680154) | more than 6 years ago | (#22287686)

Looks more like "the pre-streching goatse crater"...
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