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Unusual cratering on Mercury's far side. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University APL/
Carnegie Institution of Washington


Mar 23, 2011

After a seven year journey the space probe is now Mercury's first satellite.

On August 3, 2004, NASA launched the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) experiment from Cape Canaveral. After traveling nearly eight billion kilometers, the 485 kilogram spacecraft initiated orbital insertion around Mercury on March 17, 2011. It will begin its scientific mission on March 23, 2011.

Mercury is a small planet, 4878 kilometers in diameter. Jupiter's moon Ganymede and Saturn's moon Titan are both larger. Mercury revolves at a mean distance of 57,910,000 kilometers from the Sun, so a year on Mercury lasts 88 days. Since it rotates once every 58.6 days, the planet completes three rotations for every two orbits.

Mercury, like most bodies in the Solar System, has a weak magnetic field, but scientists have no idea how it is generated. A magnetometer on the MESSENGER satellite should help resolve where the magnetic field originates. Modern theories suggest that it is a rotating "dynamo" of molten metal inside Mercury, although no one understands how a molten core exists on Mercury since the planet appears cold and dead. The molten interior should have cooled off eons ago.

Considering its estimated high density, Mercury is believed to be almost 75% iron surrounded by a thin shell of silicon-rich rock. Consensus theories about protoplanetary nebulae cannot explain the abundance of iron: the ratio of iron to silicon is opposite that of the other rocky planets.

Mercury's temperature exceeds 400 Celsius at noon, and it receives an average of nine times more radiation at its surface than the Earth. Since it is bathed in searing heat, and is bombarded by charged particles from the Sun, how can it possess a detectable atmosphere?

According to planetary scientists, a planet with a gravity field only 38% that of Earth, and under such intense solar irradiation, should not possess the smallest remnant of an atmosphere. It is possible that Mercury could be a young planet, so, like Titan (a possibly young moon of Saturn), it retains some of its primordial envelope despite low gravity.

During MESSENGER's second flyby of Mercury, electromagnetic flux tubes were found connecting the planet's weak magnetic field directly to the Sun with gigantic filaments of electric current. In April of 2009, NASA’s THEMIS satellites found similar "electric tornadoes" above Earth at the interface between the magnetosphere and the Sun's ionic wind.

Such currents are familiar to plasma physicists and Electric Universe proponents. It is those helical "Birkeland currents" that confine plasma and allow electricity to flow over great distances. The presence of electric forces flowing like giant tornadoes into Mercury hint at a time when those forces might have been far more powerful.

As mentioned in a Previous Picture of the Day, there could have been a period in Mercury's history when those helical currents were energized to the glow mode or the arc mode stage. If that happened, then the surface of Mercury would have been the scene of gigantic electric discharges blasting out craters, cutting vast chasms, and rearranging the atomic structure of the planet's crust over large areas.

One of the most intriguing features on Mercury is the Caloris Basin, a 1300-kilometer "astrobleme" that supposedly caused shockwaves to pass entirely through the planet. On the opposite side of Mercury are bizarre folds and uplifts that are said to be from the antipodal compression of the crust as the tremendous pressure partially melted and then re-solidified the strata. The Caloris Basin resembles other multi-ringed "impact" structures we have previously discussed in other Picture of the Day articles.

Multiple basins found on Mercury, just as on several other celestial bodies, are probably formed when electricity erodes material from the surface. Craters are usually circular because the electromagnetic forces constrain them to strike at right angles to the surface. If an electric arc is composed of two filaments rotating around a common center, the surface will be excavated by a plasma "drill bit," leaving steep sides and a “pinched up” rim of debris. If several filaments are involved, the plasma beams can cut one crater within another, sometimes with one or more smaller craters on the rims.

Most of the debris on the surface of Mercury appears to be chunks of fallback material that was blown out by the explosive energies of plasma discharges. Ordinarily, as in the image at the top of the page, the craters have little if any ejecta surrounding them.

Indeed, a close examination of some of those concentrations of craters reveals them to be woven together in patterns that crisscross and braid themselves over and under one another. They all lie along the path of flat-topped mesas that rise above deep chasms cutting across the landscape without regard to the elevation. Many times the chasms slice right through the middle of a crater and its central mountain peak as if they weren’t there.

How does the Electric Universe hypothesis account for the volumes of information returned by missions such as MESSENGER? The Electric Universe provides simple yet surprising answers to that question in such publications as, "Astronomical Myths of Mercury and the Sun," by Wal Thornhill. With MESSENGER's mission in orbit around Mercury it is likely that additional observations will confirm our hypothesis.

Stephen Smith

The Lightning-Scarred Planet Mars

A video documentary that could change everything you thought you knew about ancient times and symbols. In this second episode of Symbols of an Alien Sky, David Talbott takes the viewer on an odyssey across the surface of Mars. Exploring feature after feature of the planet, he finds that only electric arcs could produce the observed patterns. The high resolution images reveal massive channels and gouges, great mounds, and crater chains, none finding an explanation in traditional geology, but all matching the scars from electric discharge experiments in the laboratory. (Approximately 85 minutes)

Video Selections         Order Link 



"The Cosmic Thunderbolt"

YouTube video, first glimpses of Episode Two in the "Symbols of an Alien Sky" series.


And don't forget: "The Universe Electric"

Three ebooks in the Universe Electric series are now available. Consistently praised for easily understandable text and exquisite graphics.

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  Follow the stunning success of the Electric Universe in predicting the 'surprises' of the space age.  
  Our multimedia page explores many diverse topics, including a few not covered by the Thunderbolts Project.  

Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.
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Professor of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the "Big Bang" cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic "reconnection", or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.
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In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.
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EXECUTIVE EDITORS: David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong,
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