The NASA Messenger satellite was the seventh discovery mission ever launched by the company and the first-ever fly past Mercury. Its intended purpose was to study the geological environment of the planet as well as its surface. Several days ago, the systems on board the Messenger recorded a meteoroid striking Mercury’s surface. It’s estimated that it measured three feet in length. The Messenger expedition lasted from 2011 to 2015. The Messengers Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer helped capture the possible evidence readings and amounts of sodium and silicon ions within planets solar winds. The meteoroid would come from an asteroid belt some 200 million miles away from Mercury using the information from those particles.
Scientists could do a reverse time-lapse using the particles found in the solar winds and determined that the particles found were younger than initially thought. On the sun side of the planet, it was discovered that the particles were traveling in an extremely tight beam of light like a wave, all at the exact same time and speed. This allowed them to track the sun particles back to their source and found that a cluster of particles erupted on Mercury and scattered nearly 300 miles into the vastness of space. Powerfully charged gases also disperse from rays of light from the solar winds. Hypothetically maybe two or three impacts happened per year during Messenger’s mission lifespan. Unfortunately, none of those were captured in any of the images from the mission.
Messengers’ origins date back all the way from July 1999, when it was first selected as the seventh discovery satellite, to July 2001, when final construction began. August 2004 is when the mission launched. It completed flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury starting in August 2005 and ending with the Mercury flyby in September 2009. The satellite completed its mission in 2015.
To see a detailed timeline of the Messenger mission, please click here.