Photo of The Day

Photo of The Day: Mickey on Mercury

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The planet Mercury completes a rotation once every 59 Earth days, and orbits the sun every 87.969 Earth days. It's the closest planet to the sun and because Mercury has no atmosphere the rock has a heck of a time keeping a mild temperature. Despite her proximity to the sun, Mercury's surface temps range from -170°C to a steamy 430°C. Keep that cottage in Chamonix. While Mercury has no satellites, if a 180-lbs man were to visit the place he'd only weigh 68 lbs.

The Nasa spacecraft MESSENGER launched on August 3, 2004, and made its first gravity-assisted flyby of the planet in January 2008. Then in March 2011 MESSENGER successfully entered orbit around Mercury. It's been snapping pictures of the surface ever since, making 988 orbits around the planet so far. Last month, MESSENGER delivered the 100,000th monochrome photograph of the Mercury, which is a pretty big deal. MDIS Instrument Engineer Ed Hawkins of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. says, "[A] sunshade protects the spacecraft from direct solar illumination, but we knew it would constrain a camera's range of pointing," Hawkins says. "So, we had to come up with a system that would be able to capture the required observations of the planet, maintain the thermal safety requirements and not jeopardize the safety of the spacecraft.

"We finally came up with the idea for a pivoting mechanism that gave the instrument an extra degree of freedom, allowing it to obtain extra observations even when the spacecraft — and the rest of the instruments — were facing away from the planet."

They've captured some wild pictures. The surface of Mercury has been pounded by asteroids and comets, and as you can see here the place is pummeled. And here we see the undeniable likeness of Earth's most beloved mouse, Mickey, carved in the craters.

That's right. I lured you in with the promise of seeing Mickey Mouse in order to shove some science facts at your face today. Not to be mean, but to be kind.

Thanks for the photo, NASA.

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# Guest 2014-02-18 13:12
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