Before its planned crash into Mercury last year, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft gave scientists a parting gift.
New research shows that the planet completes a rotation on its axis roughly 9 seconds faster than scientists previously thought.
A robotic spacecraft that circled Mercury detected magnetized rocks, evidence that planet’s still-roiling, liquid metal core likely spawned a global magnetic field as far back as about 3.8 billion years ago.
At 3:26 p.m. ET today (Thursday), NASA's MESSENGER mission to the innermost planet of the solar system came to a dramatic end, smashing into Mercury's surface at a speed of over 8,700 miles per hour.
As it zoomed danger-close to small planet's surface at a mind-boggling 8,700 miles per hour, MESSENGER managed to beam one last look at the Mercurian landscape back to Earth.
The spacecraft is expected to crash onto the planet's surface at a searing 8,750 miles per hour -- fast enough to carve out a crater 52 feet wide.
NASA has released a map of the region where the spacecraft is expected to crash.
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft is in the final days of an unprecedented and unexpectedly long-lived, close-up study of the innermost planet of the solar system, with a crashing finale expected in two weeks.
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