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MESSENGER reveals more of Mercury
Posted: Wed, Nov 4, 2009, 7:52 AM ET (1252 GMT)
MESSENGER illustration (JHUAPL) Scientists released Tuesday images and other data collected by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft as it flew past Mercury in September. Only some of the planned data for the flyby, the third by MESSENGER, was collected when the spacecraft entered safe mode near closest approach. However, scientists were able to see additional regions of the planet not previously observed, brining the total surface area of the planet imaged by MESSENGER and a 1970s-era mission, Mariner 10, to 98 percent. MESSENGER also studied the planet's thin atmosphere and the elemental composition of the surface, finding higher concentrations of iron and titanium than previously expected. The three MESSENGER flybys set up the spacecraft to go into orbit around the planet in early 2011.
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