Mercury, up close

Mercury, up close April 8, 2011

NASA’s Messenger space probe has flown by Mercury, the smallest planet and the one closest to the Sun, sending back pictures.

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  • WebMonk

    I’ve always had a “warm” spot for Mercury since it was one of the first evidences for Einstein’s then-new laws of relativity. Unfortunately there hasn’t really been much investigation of Mercury to grab people’s interest. I’m hoping this will change. I’m hoping for some tectonics and maybe some interesting features from the extremes in temperatures experienced.

  • WebMonk

    I’ve always had a “warm” spot for Mercury since it was one of the first evidences for Einstein’s then-new laws of relativity. Unfortunately there hasn’t really been much investigation of Mercury to grab people’s interest. I’m hoping this will change. I’m hoping for some tectonics and maybe some interesting features from the extremes in temperatures experienced.

  • Stephen

    Webmonk

    I also find mercury and Venus very mysterious, Jupiter too. Mars has become sort of old news. My wife and I did get to see it through a very powerful observatory telescope when it came close to the earth about four or five years ago. That was a thrill.

    I heard a spot on the radio a while back about our solar system being unique (so far) in that the smaller planets are closer in to the star whereas other solar systems that have been observed have larger planets closer in. Do you know much about that phenomenon? Does it relate at all to what you say about Einstein and if so, is there a reason theorized as yet as to why this expectation that other solar systems ought to look like ours but aren’t? (hope that makes sense).

    I was a bit of a dreamer about this stuff when I was kid watching all the Apollo stuff. I used to draw pictures of rockets and landers. But I admit to not being much of a mathematician, so if you drop equations on me I’ll become lost. Layman’s language if possible.

  • Stephen

    Webmonk

    I also find mercury and Venus very mysterious, Jupiter too. Mars has become sort of old news. My wife and I did get to see it through a very powerful observatory telescope when it came close to the earth about four or five years ago. That was a thrill.

    I heard a spot on the radio a while back about our solar system being unique (so far) in that the smaller planets are closer in to the star whereas other solar systems that have been observed have larger planets closer in. Do you know much about that phenomenon? Does it relate at all to what you say about Einstein and if so, is there a reason theorized as yet as to why this expectation that other solar systems ought to look like ours but aren’t? (hope that makes sense).

    I was a bit of a dreamer about this stuff when I was kid watching all the Apollo stuff. I used to draw pictures of rockets and landers. But I admit to not being much of a mathematician, so if you drop equations on me I’ll become lost. Layman’s language if possible.

  • WebMonk

    As to the “phenomenal” or unique nature of our solar system, it only appears that way because we can’t see any small planets around other stars yet, and it’s really hard to see even big planets unless they are close to their star. So it is expected that the first solar systems that we saw would not be like our own system.

    Once we start getting telescopes which are powerful enough to observe the small planets around stars, even when they’re further away from the star, we’ll start seeing other star systems that look like ours, and our system’s “unique” status (as far as planetary makeup) will disappear.

    That is different than what I was talking about Einstein’s laws. Einstein’s then-theory was very, very similar to Newton’s gravitational laws, and it was only in “extreme” situations that there could be observed differences. Mercury’s orbit, due to its proximity to the Sun and the “extreme” gravity, was one of the first things that showed observable proof of Einstein’s theories.

    Basically, Newton’s law of gravity is only vaguely accurate. It’s fine in our day-to-day, and even for things like most satellites and things. However, Einstein’s theory held that Newton’s gravitational laws were not completely accurate, and Einstein made several predictions about how much his own theories would differ from Newton’s theory.

    It was pretty crazy, back then, to even postulate that Newton’s gravitational law was incorrect, and there was a lot of resistance. However, when close examination of Mercury’s orbit showed that it actually followed Einstein’s theory instead of Newton’s theory, it was one of the biggest initial pieces of evidence that got people to accept Einstein’s theories.

  • WebMonk

    As to the “phenomenal” or unique nature of our solar system, it only appears that way because we can’t see any small planets around other stars yet, and it’s really hard to see even big planets unless they are close to their star. So it is expected that the first solar systems that we saw would not be like our own system.

    Once we start getting telescopes which are powerful enough to observe the small planets around stars, even when they’re further away from the star, we’ll start seeing other star systems that look like ours, and our system’s “unique” status (as far as planetary makeup) will disappear.

    That is different than what I was talking about Einstein’s laws. Einstein’s then-theory was very, very similar to Newton’s gravitational laws, and it was only in “extreme” situations that there could be observed differences. Mercury’s orbit, due to its proximity to the Sun and the “extreme” gravity, was one of the first things that showed observable proof of Einstein’s theories.

    Basically, Newton’s law of gravity is only vaguely accurate. It’s fine in our day-to-day, and even for things like most satellites and things. However, Einstein’s theory held that Newton’s gravitational laws were not completely accurate, and Einstein made several predictions about how much his own theories would differ from Newton’s theory.

    It was pretty crazy, back then, to even postulate that Newton’s gravitational law was incorrect, and there was a lot of resistance. However, when close examination of Mercury’s orbit showed that it actually followed Einstein’s theory instead of Newton’s theory, it was one of the biggest initial pieces of evidence that got people to accept Einstein’s theories.

  • Stephen

    That’s interesting, and I’m sure your know more about it than me. When I heard about this “uniqueness” thing the scienctist who was speaking didn’t mention anything about it eventually being proven wrong by more powerful telescopes. In fact, the way it went, he described it as if the more solar systems that are being observed, the more the theory that they would be like ours gets squashed. My sense was that we may need a new theory, not new telescopes. I was just wondering if Einstein’s theory was at all related to how we understand the gravitational forces that are observed in such things.

    Anyway, all very fun to think about. I fancy getting a telescope one day when my kids are older. Of all the sciences, it’s the one that fascinates me the most, though I admit to being more naturally unscientific. I have a great story about gazing up at Orion while in India while lying on a cot by an open fire. I was sick as a dog. It was comforting.

    Mercury, as you may know, is the Roman version of Hermes the messenger god, where we get the word hermeneutics. He’s also the god of trade and commerce – exchange. I studied hermeneutics, so I guess I’ve also got a warm spot for the little guy too. The word “hermeutekos” is in the NT such as here in John for “when translated” – the idea being that a message has been “exchanged” from one idiom to another –

    John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

    Cheers!

  • Stephen

    That’s interesting, and I’m sure your know more about it than me. When I heard about this “uniqueness” thing the scienctist who was speaking didn’t mention anything about it eventually being proven wrong by more powerful telescopes. In fact, the way it went, he described it as if the more solar systems that are being observed, the more the theory that they would be like ours gets squashed. My sense was that we may need a new theory, not new telescopes. I was just wondering if Einstein’s theory was at all related to how we understand the gravitational forces that are observed in such things.

    Anyway, all very fun to think about. I fancy getting a telescope one day when my kids are older. Of all the sciences, it’s the one that fascinates me the most, though I admit to being more naturally unscientific. I have a great story about gazing up at Orion while in India while lying on a cot by an open fire. I was sick as a dog. It was comforting.

    Mercury, as you may know, is the Roman version of Hermes the messenger god, where we get the word hermeneutics. He’s also the god of trade and commerce – exchange. I studied hermeneutics, so I guess I’ve also got a warm spot for the little guy too. The word “hermeutekos” is in the NT such as here in John for “when translated” – the idea being that a message has been “exchanged” from one idiom to another –

    John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

    Cheers!