back to article Messenger reveals Mercury's hidden side

NASA's Messenger has beamed back the first picture of Mercury's hitherto unseen side, snapped from a distance of about 17,000 miles after its first fly-by of the planet yesterday. Messenger photo of Mercury's hitherto unseen side. Image: NASA Messenger photo of Mercury's hitherto unseen side. Image: NASA NASA explains: " …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    It's full of rocks

    For such a historic photograph it bores me. Except for the large crater near the terminator, about three-quarters of the way up, that has another crater inside it, almost dead-centre, and a third crater inside that. What a boring planet is Mercury.

  2. Charles Manning


    Well isn't that amazing.... well worth multi-billions and the wait.

    Yet another picture of a vagely spherical object that has either had bad pimples or a run in with space crap.

    I think it quite remarkable that billions get spent on pointless research activities like this when we do so little to explore our oceans and understand our own planet. For example, we know very little about beaked whales. Imaging what stuff we know absolutely nothing about.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @ Ashley

    <<It's full of rocks>> ... <<What a boring planet is Mercury.>>

    Just what did you expect - a spaceport? (Although a huge lava flow would have been cool. ;-P )

  4. Douglas

    @Charles Manning

    According to NASA, the entire mission costs "approximately $446 million (including spacecraft and instrument development, launch vehicle, mission operations and data analysis)". Not exactly "multi-billions", now is it?

  5. Mark Bowen

    Batten down the hatches

    Miserable sods!

    There is more to science than a pretty picture.

    Would you say the same thing about Voyagers 1 and 2, Cassini or Gallileo or were they a waste of time and money too, because - hey - there was nothing useful or interesting found on those missions was there?

    I think it my duty to inform you that the New Horizons Mission will also be a "multi-billion" dollar waste of time to visit a boring "planet" and it's equally boring "moon" because they will look very much like the image from Mercury. Sorry to disappoint you.

    Course I could be wrong and there might be a Borg listening post there and then we really will be in the sh*t!

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    A long time ago

    A married couple worked hard and put their lives on the line to discover Radium, irradiation and how to detect it. The work of Pierre and Marie Curie ultimately led to X-ray machines, and founded the first stepping stone to what is nowadays nuclear power plants.

    At the beginning of their research, not many people were interested. For years their "research" was done in an unused hangar, with a bare minimum in material. But their discovery and the conclusions it yielded were hailed as a great achievement. No one could have guessed it when they started.

    If the director of the university where Pierre and Marie Curie worked had decided to forbid their research (and supposing the couple abided by that decision), we just might be still using candlelight today, and nobody would have computers of any kind.

    Space research is the same thing. It's long, it's expensive, and Joe Public sees no use for it. But that same Joe Public just might, one day, be able to set foot on other planets because of it. If that is just remotely possible, I say today's research is money well spent.

  7. Eugene Goodrich

    Hitherto-unseen portion of the planet?

    Does that mean this is Mercury's backside, then?

  8. Stuart Van Onselen


    Huh. While people complain about the billions that NASA spends, they seem much less incensed at the trillions of US taxpayers' money that go into the Military/Industrial Complex. Needless wars, over-budget weapons systems, maintenance costs on weapons that may never be used, a vast bureaucracy to staff, etc.

    IIRC, US military spending is the second largest chunk of the federal budget, just after Social Security. And financially, SS helps far more people than the MIC does.

    NASA's entire budget barely rates a segment in the federal budget pie-graph. And much of that already minuscule NASA budget gets used in ways that *do* directly help people - Things like weather satellites.

    So, Americans, stop whining about the petty stuff, and put some pressure on your govt to scale back the armed forces to no more than is needed to protect your national security. And get them to stop the gravy-train that makes military contractors obscenely rich at your expense.

  9. Barry Mahon
    Thumb Up


    It is fantastic, it does help, just look at GPS for finding your way, indirectly, or possibly directly derived from this kind of research.

    Anyway, it is peanuts compared to Citi losing $9Bn and then asking for a handout!!!

  10. Johnny FireBlade

    @ Eugene Goodrich

    "Does that mean this is Mercury's backside, then?"

    Either way, it looks better than Uranus! ;)

  11. Nano nano

    Hidden - wrong word ?

    No side of Mercury is actually 'hidden' except insofar as you might happen to be on the other side as you go past, or on the unlit side. It's not in a locked orbit, as our moon is, either. I expect you could probably see this 'side' using Hubble, were it sensible to point it so close to the sun.

    No, the side now revealed by Messenger is that which was unseen on the previous visit by a spacecraft, ~30 years ago.


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    "..deploy its impressive payload of instruments to probe the body's mysteries".

    Paris Hilton.

    'Nuff said.

  13. TeeCee Gold badge
    Dead Vulture

    Surely not.

    Mercury waffles around the sun in about 88 days (our days of course). It also revolves on its axis every 59ish days. So, how can any part of it (bar the poles) be "hidden" from us?

    A quick check on the NASA website reveals that the pictures are those of "Mercury's previously unseen surface". i.e. "we've never had anything with a decent camera close enough to get a good enough piccy to reveal the detail before." There's nothing about any sides or hemispheres not having their jaw-dropping tedium inspected before at lower resolutions.

    This is, of course, far less interesting journalistically.

    3/10, please try harder.

  14. Peter Mc Aulay

    Re: OMG!!!!

    You only get pictures of pock-marked balls of rock in the media because pictures is about the only thing Joe Public understands about space science! Most of the really interesting stuff is incomprehensible to non-scientists. But oh no, there can't possibly be more to space exploration than taking a few pictures of old rocks, you know, that's so like, archeology and stuff innit, which you no doubt think is just as pointless?

    Poor, blind fool.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is that photo in colour?

  16. Matthew
    Thumb Up


    Space exploration is a fantastic subject which in the grand scheme of things costs very little. Although Mercury isn't perhaps the most interesting place in the Solar System it should be studied, and for £200K it's not going to hurt.

    Looking forward to seeing the close ups and the New Horizons pictures of Pluto a few years afterwards.

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