Being really really close to the Sun, the tiny planet of Mercury gets incredibly hot. But even on this scalding hot rock, it looks like there are patches of frozen water. At the poles, in the shadows of craters, NASA has found evidence of ice.
Even though Mercury has been known to humans since antiquity, its close proximity to the Sun has made it a difficult planet to study, somewhat like trying to look at a dust mote in front of a spotlight. But with NASA’s new MESSENGER probe, we’re getting a much better look at the smallest planet.
On December 1st, NASA’s STEREO spacecraft was just chilling out, watching a coronal mass ejection splashing over Mercury when it spotted a massive, cloaked spacecraft parked next to the inner planet. Well, that’s what alien hunters think it is.
Early yesterday morning, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft went into orbit around Mercury and took the above photo, which is the first photo ever taken of Mercury while in orbit around the tiny, rocky planet. Later this afternoon (2pm EST), NASA will be holding a press conference to reveal even more images.
In an effort to create the first known interplanetary disco, Japan’s space exploration agency JAXA is sending a probe to Mercury covered in mirrors. The next mission will most likely put ABBA and Lady Gaga on the hot planet in an effort to encourage intergalactic visitors. Uh, or not. The real story: