Image: A solar system family portrait, from the inside out

February 21, 2011
Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has constructed the first portrait of our solar system by combining 34 images taken by the spacecraft’s Wide Angle Camera on Nov. 3 and 16, 2010.

The mosaic, pieced together over a period of a few weeks, comprises all of the planets except for Uranus and Neptune, which were too faint to detect.

On March 17, 2011, MESSENGER may become the first probe ever to orbit Mercury. Scientists hope orbital observations will provide new answers to how Earth-like planets, like Mercury, are assembled and evolve.

Explore further: NASA rescheduled MESSENGER start to Mercury to August 3

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1 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2011
That is not a very impressive picture.

But the visit to Mercury may help JPL/NASA scientists understand that Mercury and other Earth-like planets accreted in layers, beginning with the iron core that assembled from iron meteorites near the pulsar core of the supernova.


1. K. K. Turekian and S. P. Clarke, "Inhomogeneous accumulation of the earth from the primitive solar nebula," Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol. 6, 1969, pp. 346- 348.

2. A. P. Vinogradov, "Formation of the metal cores of planets," Geokhimiya, vol. 10, 1975, pp. 1427-1431.

3. "The noble gas record of the terrestrial planets", Geochemical Journal, vol. 15, 1981, pp. 245-267.

4. "Neutron Repulsion" [The APEIRON Journal, 19 pages, in press, 2011]

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

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