No, no, Iâ€™m not talking about the area between Waltâ€™s ears, but rather the area that is not on the Green Hills of Earth. We are once again returning to out in space. Today we bring you a couple of interesting (well, interesting to us) unEarthly stories. The first one is a story regarding a 30-year-old mystery regarding Mercury, the planet nearest to the Sun. Apparently to people who think about this sort of stuff, volcanism has long been thought to be a major force in shaping the rocky, terrestrial planets.
Obviously, there are still volcanoes that run hot here on Earth, while on Mars, there is more of a subdued volcanism that may or may not still be alive. Then there is Venus which is riddled with old volcanoes. Well, scientists may now have more info on the subject, due to MESSENGER (short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) which made its debut flyby of Mercury on Jan. 14, passing about 124 miles (200 kilometers) over the planet’s surface.
Images of Mercury from the Mariner 10 mission showed areas of smooth plains covering parts of the planet’s surface. Scientists speculated that these could be volcanic deposits, similar to the basaltic maria (seas) on the Moon. But unlike the maria, these plains were lighter, not darker, than the surrounding landscape, and Apollo 16 astronauts had just discovered that similarly light plains on the Moon were actually impact breccia, or rock that was smashed apart and then re-welded together again.
Next up; ever wonder what has become of all of those moon rock that came back from all of those Apollo missions. Well, truth to tell, neither have we, but apparently they are still around, and are revealing something of our celestial past:
HOUSTON â€” In the lab, the Moon rocks look nondescript â€” dark gray basalt, a whitish mineral called anorthosite and mixtures of the two with crystals thrown in. Yet nearly 40 years after the Apollo astronauts brought the first rocks back to Earth, these pieces of the Moon are still providing scientists with new secrets from another world.
Well, thatâ€™s it for now, perhaps tomorrow weâ€™ll be able to find something interesting here on Earth.