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Mercury and the MESSENGER First and Second Flyby Results

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Robert G.
Strom (Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA)

The two flybys of MESSENGER have provided important new information on Mercury. We have now seen about 90% of the planet and determined important targets of opportunity for the orbital phase. There has been extensive volcanism early in its history and the system of thrust faults has a global distribution. There has been very little tensional fracturing and the planet radius has decreased at least 1 km and probably more. For the first time we have identified Population 2 craters and determined that secondary craters on Mercury are the largest in the Solar System. The floor structure of the Caloris basin is unique in the Solar System and at least one other newly discovered smaller basin has a somewhat similar structure. The magnetic field is dipolar with similar characteristics as Earth s field, but much weaker. The third encounter will occur on Sept. 29, 2009 and orbit insertion will happen in March 2011.

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