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MESSENGER Mission to Mercury Heather Weir NASA-GSFC/SSAI August 9, 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "MESSENGER Mission to Mercury Heather Weir NASA-GSFC/SSAI August 9, 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 MESSENGER Mission to Mercury Heather Weir NASA-GSFC/SSAI August 9, 2006

2 MESSENGER Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter New Horizons

3 MESSENGER Mission to Mercury

4 Mercury: Some basic properties Closest planet to the Sun (0.39 AU) Orbital period: 88 days Length of one day (sunrise to sunrise): 176 Earth days –One day on Mercury is two of its years long! 3:2 spin-orbit (rotates three times about its spin axis for every two orbital revolutions)

5 3:2 Spin-Orbit Resonance A solar day (the length between two meridian transits of the Sun) lasts about 176 Earth days. A sidereal day (the period of rotation) lasts about 58.7 Earth days.

6 Mercury – The Planet Seen with the ‘naked’ or unaided eye, 2 hours before sunrise or after sunset. Surface very Moon-like Has an atmosphere (but extremely tenuous) Very low gravity (3.7m/s 2 ) Daytime temperature: 450 degrees Celsius, or 840 degrees Fahrenheit (lead melts at °C). Night-time temperature: -212 Celsius, or -350 Fahrenheit (oxygen changes from gas to liquid below °C). Planets Over Stonehenge Credit & Copyright: Philip Perkins

7 Solar System (sizes to scale, distances not to scale)

8 Mercury: One of the Terrestrial Planets (sizes not to scale) Mercury VenusEarth Mars Terrestrial planets: rocky Earth-like planets

9 Mercury: The Extreme of the Terrestrial Planets Is the smallest Is the densest Besides Earth, only one with global magnetosphere Has one of the oldest surfaces Has largest daily changes in surface temperature (-180ºC to 450ºC; or -300ºF to 850ºF) Is the least explored In this group, Mercury

10 Visitors to Mercury 3 fly-bys in 1974 & 1975 Mapped ~45% of planet’s surface scaled down to 1 kilometer Revealed – impact craters; smooth and rough terrain, global magnetic field; thin atmosphere, & iron-rich core creating high uncompressed density. Mariner 10

11 MESSENGER – MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging –NASA Discovery Mission –1 Earth fly-by, 2 Venus fly-bys, 3 Mercury fly-bys –Orbit Mercury – map almost the complete planet –Launch 08/03/04 Orbit: 03/18/11 –Data collection concludes: ~03/18/2012 –NASA, Carnegie Institute of Washington, and John Hopkins University (Applied Physics Laboratory)

12 Only the second spacecraft ever to visit Mercury –Mariner 10 flew by three times in First ever to study the planet from orbit: –Close-up observations for one Earth year State-of-the-art spacecraft equipped with cutting-edge technology and top-quality instruments Mission

13 Science Payload Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS): This instrument consists of wide-angle and narrow-angle imagers that will map landforms, track variations in surface spectra and gather topographic information. A pivot platform will help point it in whatever direction the scientists choose. The two instruments will enable MESSENGER to “see” much like our two eyes do. Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRNS): This instrument will detect gamma rays and neutrons that are emitted by radioactive elements on Mercury's surface or by surface elements that have been stimulated by cosmic rays. It will be used to map the relative abundances of different elements and will help to determine if there is ice at Mercury’s poles, which are never exposed to direct sunlight. X-Ray Spectrometer (XRS): Gamma rays and high- energy X-rays from the Sun, striking Mercury's surface, can cause the surface elements to emit low- energy X-rays. XRS will detect these emitted X-rays to measure the abundances of various elements in the materials of Mercury's crust. Magnetometer (MAG): This instrument is at the end of a 3.6 meter (nearly 12-foot) boom, and will map Mercury's magnetic field and will search for regions of magnetized rocks in the crust.

14 Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA): This instrument contains a laser that will send light to the planet’s surface and a sensor that will gather the light after it has been reflected from the surface. Together they will measure the amount of time for light to make a round-trip to the surface and back. Recording variations in this distance will produce highly accurate descriptions of Mercury’s topography. Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS): This spectrometer is sensitive to light from the infrared to the ultraviolet and will measure the abundances of atmospheric gases, as well as detect minerals on the surface. Energetic Particle and Plasma Spectrometer (EPPS): EPPS measures the composition, distribution, and energy of charged particles (electrons and various ions) in Mercury's magnetosphere. Radio Science (RS): RS will use the Doppler effect to measure very slight changes in the spacecraft's velocity as it orbits Mercury. This will allow scientists to study Mercury's mass distribution, including variations in the thickness of its crust. Science Payload

15 Science Questions Why is Mercury so dense? What is the geologic history of Mercury? What is the structure of Mercury’s core? What are the nature and origin of Mercury's magnetic field? What are the unusual materials at Mercury’s poles? What is the nature of Mercury’s atmosphere?

16 Why Study Mercury? Understanding the "end member" of the terrestrial planets holds unique clues to the questions of –the formation of the Solar System –evolution of the planets –magnetic field generation and magnetospheric physics Exploring Mercury will also help us understand –how our own Earth was formed –how Earth has evolved –how Earth interacts with the Sun

17 Timeline 2004 Launch (Aug. 3) 2005Earth Flyby I (Aug. 1) 2006Venus Flyby I (Oct. 24) 2007Venus Flyby II (Jun. 6) 2008Mercury Flyby I (Jan. 15) 2008Mercury Flyby II (Oct. 6) 2009 Mercury Flyby III (Sept. 30) 2011Enter Orbit (Mar. 18) 2012End orbital operations

18 How to get there? How to stay comfortable? How to make the spacecraft reliable? Challenges for a mission to Mercury:


20 Staying Cool Spacecraft will be exposed to: –5-11 times the amount of sunlight than if near Earth –More than 20 times the amount of solar radiation than if near Earth Precautions taken –Sunshade pointed towards the Sun (at all times) –Highly elliptical orbit (egg-shaped) 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the surface at the lowest point more than 15,193 kilometers (9,420 miles) at the highest. –Solar panels 70% optical solar reflectors (mirrors) 30% solar cells

21 Ice on Mercury? High radar reflectivity near the north and south poles Permanently shadowed craters near the poles Possible sources –meteorite bombardment –large comet impact –planetary outgassing Chao Meng-Fu - a 167 kilometer- diameter crater on Mercury located near the south pole.

22 MESSENGER Mission to Mercury A very important study of a poorly-known planet A great challenge for scientists and engineers An extremely exciting mission to follow by students, educators, public in general!

23 Contact Info Heather Weir

24 Tell me and I forget Show me and I remember Involve me and I understand Chinese Proverb

25 Exploring Ice in the Solar System NASA’s MESSENGER and Astrobiology group of the Carnegie Institute of Washington

26 Exploring Ice in the Solar System Educational module on: –Ice –Properties of ice –What can live in ice. –Where ice can be found Grades: Pre K-2 and lessons plus “icebreaker” introduction

27 Exploring Ice in the Solar System Science and literature Concept overviews for Pre K-Grade 2 and Grade 3- Grade 5 Lesson summary and objectives Standards (NSES and Benchmarks) Essential question Activity question Background Material

28 Exploring Ice in the Solar System Demonstration for Pre K-Grade 2 and Grade 3- Grade 5 Act-it out (not in all lessons) Main Activity –Preparation –Warm-up and pre-assessment –Procedures –Discussion and reflection –Curriculum connection Assessment criteria Resources

29 Exploring Ice in the Solar System Lessons on CD Introductory “splash” page Read in adobe acrobat


31 E/PO Team AAAS - American Association for the Advancement of Science CCSSE- Challenger Center for Space Science Education CASE - Carnegie Academy for Science Education JHU/APL - The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory SSAI - Science Systems and Applications, Inc. MU-SPIN - Minority University-Space Interdisciplinary Network CERES - Center for Educational Resources at Montana State University NASM - National Air and Space Museum AMNH - American Museum of Natural History in New York PW - Parmee/Weinrich independent television production/direction team. MSET - MESSENGER Science and Engineering Team

32 Theme I Comparative Planetology What do we know about our family of planets? What don’t we know? This theme is an examination of the diversity of worlds in the Solar System and what is currently known about Solar System formation and evolution. MESSENGER Stories –What does Mercury tell us about the other planets in the Solar System? –What will we learn from MESSENGER observations?

33 Theme II The Solar System Through History How have we come to know what we know about the Solar System? This theme is an exploration of the Solar System through the eyes of, and resources available to, past generations. MESSENGER Stories –Mercury through history - a case study –How does MESSENGER science and engineering build from the knowledge of past generations?

34 Theme III Framing Pathways to Answers: The Scientific Process in Action How do we solve engineering and design problems within constraints? What is the process of scientific exploration? This theme is an investigation of the scientific process through the vantage point of a planetary mission. It also places research and exploration in a human context. MESSENGER Stories –Meeting MESSENGER’s engineering challenges –Framing experimental pathways to do MESSENGER science –The MESSENGER team

35 Education Materials MESSENGER Education Modules (MEMs) –Broad, content-rich, overview for teachers –Inquiry-based, process- driven approaches to science education –Diverse array of activities and materials contributed by E/PO partners –Units for each grade level (PreK-12) –Updated throughout the mission


37 Dissemination Educator Training and Workshops –MESSENGER Fellowship program –**Journey through the Universe** –NASA Educators Workshops –MU-SPIN Educators Workshops –Solar System Ambassadors Online –MSU CERES Project and MESSENGER E/PO web site –AAAS Science NetLinks –Journey through the Universe

38 Comparative PlanetologyVoyageUnit 2… The Solar System Through History Unit 1Unit 2… Framing Pathways to Answers: The Scientific Process in Action Staying Cool Unit 2… Education Modules

39 Staying Cool Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 Elementary School Lesson Middle SchoolLesson High SchoolLesson

40 Staying Cool How can we study Mercury? Are there any problems we might face? Are there ways to solve these problems? Elementary School Sensing EnergyCooler in the Shadows Middle SchoolSensing the Invisible – The Herschel Experiment Snow Goggles and Limiting Sunlight My Angle on Cooling – Effect of Distance and Inclination High SchoolStar Power! – Discovering the Power of Sunlight Dangers of Radiation Exposure Cooling with Sunshades

41 How can we study Mercury? Sensing Energy (Grades 2-4) –Students use UV-sensitive beads to discover that ultraviolet light comes from the Sun, but that there are ways we can protect ourselves from it –National Science Education Standards D2, A2, B8

42 How can we study Mercury? Sensing the Invisible – The Herschel Experiment (Grades 5-8) –Students re-create Sir William Herschel’s experiment of 1800 and discover that infrared light comes from the Sun. –Students examine why infrared radiation is important –National Science Education Standard B3 –AAAS Benchmarks 4F, 12C

43 How can we study Mercury? Star Power! Discovering the Power of Sunlight –Students calculate the solar constant on Earth and compare it to what it would be at Mercury –National Science Education Standards B6, D1 –AAAS Benchmark 4E

44 Are there any problems? Snow Goggles and Limiting Sunlight (Grades 5-8) –Students measure their field- of-view with and without snow goggles –Students discuss how MESSENGER uses similar approaches to limit its exposure to sunlight (but they both use the scientific method) –National Science Education Standards A1, A2 –AAAS Benchmarks 4F, 11B, 12C

45 Are there any problems? Dangers of Radiation Exposure (Grades 9-12) –Students calculate yearly radiation exposure –Compare exposure rate on Earth with that of Mercury –Examine MESSENGER mission in terms of solar cycle –National Science Education Standard F5 –AAAS Benchmarks 10G, 1C

46 Are there ways to solve them? Cooler in the Shadows (Grades PreK-1) –Students monitor shadows throughout the day to see how they change –Temperatures taken in and out of the shadows, and show that it really is cooler in the shadows –National Science Education Standards D2, B1 –AAAS Benchmark 4E

47 My Angle on Cooling – Effect of Distance and Inclination (Grades 5-8) –Students discover how temperature changes as a function of distance and inclination –Discuss cause of the seasons on Earth –Discuss how MESSENGER uses these tactics –National Science Education Standard D3 –AAAS Benchmark 12C Are there ways to solve them?

48 Cooling with Sunshades (Grades 9-12) –Students design a sunshade to keep ice from melting –Re-design, eliminate sources of error –National Science Education Standard B5 –AAAS Benchmarks 4E, 8B

49 Design Challenges Grades PreK-1 –What Will Keep My Lunchbox Cool? Grades 2-4 –How Do You Prevent Things from Getting Too Hot? Grades 5-8 –How yo Keep Gelatin from Melting? Grades 9-12 –How yo Keep Items Cool in Boiling Water?

50 Challenger Center Pedagogy Challenger Center creates inquiry-based hands-on lessons in which students are at the center, creating their own knowledge. Lessons are created by a team of educators and practicing researchers, to ensure high-quality materials that are scientifically accurate. Challenger Center begins creating lessons based on the National Science Education Standards they want to address, not simply aligning lesson as an after-thought.

51 Snow Goggles SunSunglassesHunters

52 SITUATION: Imagine that you are a 19 th century hunter, trying to spear a seal on the arctic ice in springtime to feed your family. Near the North Pole, where everything is covered by snow and ice, it is bright in all directions. There is so much light and glare from the sky and reflected from the snow-covered ground, that you can become snow blind. PROBLEM How do you get rid of the excess light you do not need, but keep the light you do, so that you can still see the seals (and so that you don’t accidentally bump into a polar bear)?

53 Cut out snow goggles –Cardstock –Decorate Measure field of view without goggles Measure field of view with goggles –Vertical –Horizontal

54 Standards & Benchmarks

55 Standards & Benchmarks PreK-4

56 Standards & Benchmarks 5-8

57 Standards & Benchmarks 9-12

58 Staying Cool Review AAAS Review –High marks NASA’s Science Mission Directorate –Reviewed by four educators and three researchers »1 “Good” » 1 “Very Good” »5 “Outstanding”

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