European Planetary Science Conference and AAS Division for Planetary Sciences

The snows of Enceladus, evidence for climate change on Titan and planets in threes

2:14pm, October 11, 2011

Messages from Mercury
After orbiting the solar system’s smallest, innermost planet for just six months, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft is relaying some intriguing observations. For one, MESSENGER team members reported October 5, Mercury’s magnetic field is offset from the planet’s core: it’s centered 480 kilometers to the north of center, a distance roughly 20 percent that of the planet’s diameter. Atmospheric calcium curiously clusters near the planet’s equator at dawn. And a 99 percent complete surface map reveals a complex area of former volcanic activity in the northern hemisphere. It’s also possible for ice to exist on this smoldering world: as is true for Earth’s moon, there are perpetually shadowed hollows in Mercury’s surface. At the poles, these areas are tucked into craters — super-shady places that make perfect hidey-holes for ice. — Nadia Drake

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