Sadness: Mercury’s Magnetic Field Is Worthless Against Sun’s Wrath

Posted by on Oct 5, 2011 in Mercury | 0 comments

Despite being one of the three terrestrial spheres blessed with a global magnetic field (with the other two being Earth and Jupiter’s moon Ganymede), Mercury’s invisible shield will not protect future explorers from the wrath of the Sun.

Earth and Mercury are the only two magnetized planets in the solar system, and as such, they can somewhat deflect the solar wind around them. The solar wind is a squall of hot plasma, or charged particles, continuously emanating from the sun. Earth, which has a relatively strong magnetosphere, can shield itself from most of the solar wind. Mercury, which has a comparatively weak magnetosphere and is 2/3 closer to the sun, is a different story.

 

“Our results tell us is that Mercury’s weak magnetosphere provides very little protection of the planet from the solar wind,” [said Thomas] Zurbuchen [a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences and Aerospace Engineering at the U-M College of Engineering.] (Space Daily)

Although Mercury could prove its worth in the future, for now it looks like residents living upon the first “rock” from the Sun, will have to avoid contact with the fiery rays during the Mercurian day, and venture above ground at night.

Unless humanity uses Mercury as a penal colony, the planet will probably be home to mining corporations seeking to strip the world of precious metal and minerals which are needed upon other worlds (such as Earth, Luna and Mars).

(Image Credit: NASA)

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Mercury’s Mysteries May Meet Their End With Messenger Probe

Posted by on Mar 16, 2011 in Mercury | 2 comments

 

After traveling millions of kilometers toward the center of the Sol System, the Messenger probe will finally be able to call Mercury home tomorrow by establishing an orbit around the first “rock” from the Sun.

While Messenger will gather a plethora of data about the sun baked world, the Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer instrument could help determine whether Mercury is not only safe to live upon, but worth mining as well.

The gamma-ray device needs to cool down starting March 22 to function — a special challenge so close to the sun. It will measure gamma-ray emissions from Mercury’s surface to determine the abundance of elements in the crust, including reflective materials at the planet’s poles that might be water ice.

On March 23, most of the other instruments should turn on, researchers said. Messenger’s magnetometer will measure the unexpected magnetic field around Mercury in detail to determine its strength, while the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer will study the planet’s tenuous atmosphere by measuring ultraviolet light emissions. (Space.com)

If proven to host an abundance of precious metals and minerals, it might be wiser for humanity to choose to visit Mercury before Mars, despite the former being further away than the red planet.

Like the Moon, Mercury may host reservoirs of ice water within the shadowy craters that dot it’s surface, as well as large quantities of helium-3 which could be exported back to Earth in order to help power fusion nuclear reactors.

While Mercury may not be as exciting or as beautiful as the red planet (or even our beloved home world), the secrets upon that sun baked world could be the key towards financing our expanse across the Sol System.

Image Credit: NASA

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NASA Taking A Second Look At Mercury

Posted by on Nov 9, 2010 in Ice Water, Mercury, NASA | 3 comments

After six long years of space travel, NASA’s Messenger probe will finally be able to experience a close encounter with the world known as Mercury.

Although most of the planet has already been mapped, scientists are hoping that Messenger will be able to confirm whether or not the first rock from the Sun harbors water upon its Sun baked surface.

Most intriguing is what Messenger will find when it peers into craters near Mercury’s poles. The day side of Mercury reaches 800 degrees Fahrenheit, but within the shadows of the polar craters, where the Sun never shines, temperatures are thought to be around minus 300 degrees.

That means there could be large deposits of water ice on Mercury. Radar measurements from Earth have already given suggestions of water, but some scientists believe that the deposits could instead be sulfur or silicates, which could produce the same radar results. (New York Times)

If water is confirmed to exist within the shadowy craters of Mercury, it could potentially open up the planet for settlement in the semi-distant future.

While colonists would be insane to venture outside during the Mercurian day, they would be able to explore the surface during the night without fear of being irradiated thanks to the planet’s magnetic field.

Although the existence of water ice would not raise Mercury’s profile as a world humanity would need to conquer (unless of course a massive amount of metals and minerals are discovered upon the surface), it would help make the world a lot easier to inhabit for future settlers.

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The 7 (Future) Wonders Of The Solar System

Posted by on Nov 20, 2009 in Asteroids, Blog, Callisto, Future, Ganymede, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Moon, Pluto, Saturn, Solar Essay, Titan, Uranus | 5 comments

solarsytemmontage

Two hundred years after the first man and woman graced the plains of Mars, humanity is still isolated to just one star system.

Despite an intense campaign by the Alpha Centauri Society, humans overall have little desire to travel between stars due to cost and technology.

Although this rowdy species has yet to claim their interstellar inheritence, they have transformed their solar playground around them, producing seven wonders that will go down in galactic history.

The Silver Stripes of Mercury

Originally conceived as a penal colony, industrial corporations decended upon Mecury after discovering large deposits of minerals and metals upon its surface.

While its close proximety to the Sun has made Mercury famous for its Magsail races, it’s the billions of solar panels that encircle the planet on the surface (in “neat” rows varying between 1-10 km wide) that make this world an engineering wonder.

The planets 100,000 residents use the energy produced during the Mecurian day to power the ores and cities on the dark side of the planet when it’s safe to work above ground (due to the Sol Star’s radiation).

The Bio Gardens of Luna Maria

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(Image Credit: Daein Ballard)

Officially designated Luna Maria after the failed Lunar revolution (condemned by government and religious leaders on Earth), Luna Maria has transformed its appearence from a white barren wasteland into a “second Eden,” which now boasts 60 million residents.

After generating enormous wealth from exporting oxygen throughout the Sol System, Luna Maria has erected hundreds of thousands of enormous, interconnected biospheres upon 87% of its surface, giving Luna Maria the appearence of a miniture Earth from space.

Luna Maria’s artificial planetary magnetic field (the only one in existance due to cost) has allowed the moon to use bees instead of ants to pollinate its crops, producing gardens unrivaled throughout the star system (due to it’s 16.7% Earth norm gravity).

The Phobian Skyhook (Or Martian Space Elevator)

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(Image Credit: Steve Bowers)

After failed attempts to construct a space elevator on Earth (due to infrequent yet devestating global wars), humanity was finally able to construct a skyhook on the Martian moon of Phobos.

This engineering feat has enabled Mars to inexpensively export its vast supply of water throughout the asteroid belt and inner Sol System, bringing mixed prosperity to the 8 million residents of Mars.

While the red planet’s globacanes prevent a space elevator touching the ground from ever being built, the Phobian Skyhook is an impressive site to see when orbiting this crimson world.

The Jovian Jewel Callisto

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(Image Credit: Thomas Guilpain)

Originally established as a way station world during the Helium-3 rush (in which thousands sought to harvest the isotope for profit), Jupiter’s moon Callisto attracted millions of residents after being declared the safest radiation world after Earth.

Using its brother moon Ganymede as an agricultural world (due to it’s natural magnetic field), Callisto developed the means to feed its enormous population of 750 million, who built cities covering 96% of the entire surface.

Using robots to harvest radioactive materials from both Io and Europa to power its cities (as they are too dangerous to be visited by humans), Callisto brilliantly shimmers in the dark whenever it falls underneath Jupiter’s shadow.

The Beacon Towers Of Titan

Often declared as “an astronomer’s hell” due to it’s cloudy covering, Saturn’s moon Titan is considered a musicians heaven due to the richer sound that’s a result of it’s atmospheric presure and composition.

While Titan eventually became wealthy by exporting methane and ethane to the Sol System, the cloudy moon was extremly difficult to navigate as its crust rested upon a methane/ethane mix, causing it to “slightly drift” and rotate due to the worlds strong winds.

Since traditional forms of GPS were utterly useless, numerous 1.5 kilometer tall Beacon towers (beaming out intense radio waves) were constructed thoughout the moon, giving its 4 million residents a faux GPS system (making travel and commerce throughout the world a lot easier for all).

The Floating Cities Of Uranus

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(Image Credit: Star Wars, original artist unknown)

Originally built by various Terrian corporations to harvest methane and helium-3 within the clouds of this ice giant, these floating cities soon became tourist attractions for the more affluent seeking to escape the low gravity life of lunar worlds orbiting gas giants.

These giant orbital space stations boast near Earth gravity, and mimic the daylight cycle on Earth by floating around the enormous ice giant which its residents call home.

While estimates put the total population between 80,000 wealthy souls, these floating cities are known to have hundreds of thousands of visitors pass through their space ports each standard year, many of them heading towards the Neptunian Lagrange asteroid fields.

The Plutonian Ice Bridge (aka Solar Bridge of Pluto And Charon)

Boasting no more than 50,000 brave souls, this world was originally settled upon by government scientists from various Terrian, Martian and Callistian nations seeking to conduct experiments considered too hazardous (and/or controversial) on their respective home worlds.

While the world and its smaller moon hold little value (both visually and economically), one interesting feature of this binary system is the solar bridge connecting both Pluto and Charon together.

This engineering feat was originally built to reduce the cost of travel between both worlds via rockets although conspiracy theorists have their own conclusions for its existence (none of which will be cited here).

What about Earth?

Although the human race has made great strides in establishing colonies throughout the Sol System, most of its 20 billion individuals reside on the birth planet Earth.

While Earth is still home to some of the greatest scientific discoveries known to man (and women), there are no great engineering wonders to speak of, aside from the beautiful beaches, mountains and vast blue oceans that distinguish our home world from every other sphere that orbits our star.

Update (11/24): Corrected grammatical errors. Thanks!

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Solar Shades For Mercury Outposts?

Posted by on Nov 14, 2008 in Blog, Mercury, Technology | 0 comments

(Image: The James Webb Space Telescope’s sunshield outstretched. Credit: NASA / Northrop Grumman)

Of all the worlds humanity world humanity has yet to conquer, Mercury will probably be one of the toughest to conquer.

With surface temperatures reaching as high as 427 degrees Celsius (or about 800 degrees Fahrenheit), the future of any Mercury outpost looks to be either underground and/or nocturnal (which would probably make this planet an attractive place for penal colonies).

Since living underground (or even inside an outpost) may not attract the masses towards the planet, scientists may need to “revamp” solar shades from space telescopes in order to allow residents to explore the world during the Mercurian day (which is about 29 Earth days long).

(ESA Space Science) Imagine sunglasses that can withstand the severe cold and heat of space, a barrage of radiation and high-speed impacts from small space debris. They don’t exist, but the sunshield for the James Webb Space Telescope, JWST, has been designed for just that. […]

Any satellite that flies in the depths of space has to be able to withstand the rigors of space, from the icy cold to the intense heat and radiation of a solar flare. Temperatures in space can range from a hot 400 K (127°C) to a frigid 30 K (-243°C). In addition, the telescope’s sunshield will be bombarded with tiny meteorites (sand-like grains) and radiation in space, so it has to be tough. It has to stand up against those things, as well as tension and aging under the extreme space environments.

Hopefully scientists can find a way to adapt this technology for “space windows” and helmet visors, as it will will enable colonists to view and roam the surface of Mercury without being blinded by the suns rays.

Even though Mercury may not be as colorful or attractive as some of the other worlds in our star system, the first rock from the sun may could easily replace Mars as humanities “next step” (after the Moon) due to the amount of potential resources that may be located there.

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Mapping The Surface Of Mercury

Posted by on Sep 1, 2008 in Blog, Mercury, NASA | 0 comments

Before the first human creates a foot print on Mercurian soil, we are going to have to create maps in order to navigate on the “first rock” from the Sun.

Fortunately it looks as if one scientist is committed to creating accurate maps for NASA (and others) on one of the hottest planets in our Solar system.

(Space Travel) Gaskell, who is based in Altadena, Calif., uses a method called stereo-photo-clinometry, or SPC. Just as stereophonic means sound from different directions, stereo-photo means light from different directions, and clinometry means that slopes, or inclines, are being measured. […]

His newest project, which was recently funded by NASA, will create highly accurate maps of the entire surface of Mercury based on images sent back by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. MESSENGER flew by Mercury in January and is scheduled to go into orbit in 2011, after several passes of Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Despite the fact that the planet’s surface is slowly baked under the brutal rays of the Sun, Mercury could ultimately serve as an interplanetary hub in the future, as its close orbit to our celestial star may grant it easy access to the rest of the worlds in our solar system.

But before we can even think about colonizing Mercury, we are going to need maps (in great detail) in order to turn that barren world into a thriving outpost for humanity.

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