The Mercury planet has unveiled a big surprise under a NASA spacecraft.
NASA has discovered a formation on Mercury dubbed “the spider” after a wealth of images and data that shows the planet a unique world and not similar to our own moon.
The MESSENGER craft (for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) reached the planet for its first flyby on January 14 after traveling more than two billion miles and three years.
The first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to our sun, its instruments collected more than 1,200 images and other measurements—the first up-close analysis since the Mariner 10 craft last flew by in 1975.
Unlike our moon, Mercury has large huge cliffs with structures that are hundreds of miles across, preserving a record of fault activity patterns from its early times, researchers said. It also showed impact craters very different from lunar ones.
The craft revealed an odd feature scientists dubbed “the spider,” unknown before on Mercury and unlike anything on the moon, they said. It lies in the middle of a vast impact crater called the Caloris basin and consists of more than 100 narrow, flat-floored troughs emanating from a complex central zone.
Mercury’s magnetic field also seemed different from the Mariner 10 observations, scientists reported, and the craft’s instruments offered insights into the terrain’s mineral makeup and outer atmosphere. Two more flybys and an intensive orbital study are still planned.