MESSENGER Orbital Insertion of the Innermost Planet, Mercury

After flying nearly 5 billion miles over 6 years from Earth, the MESSENEGER spacecraft is scheduled to begin orbiting Mercury on March 17, becoming the first spacecraft to do so if successful. To date, MESSENGER’s three flybys of the innermost planet have yielded invaluable insights about Mercury, the smallest, densest, and least explored of the terrestrial planets.

The event will feature a live feed from MESSENGER operations center at Johns Hopkins University with Sean Solomon, director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution and principal investigator of the MESSENGER mission, and Museum scientists, who will discuss the mission, including the importance of understanding Mercury’s high-density composition. The Museum’s Digital Universe Atlas will be used to illustrate the path that MESSENGER traveled before entering Mercury’s orbit on the AstroBulletin screen.

The fate of the spacecraft—which will begin its rocket burn at 8:50 pm—won’t be known until after 10 pm.

WHEN: Thursday, March 17, from 8:30 to 10:15 pm Wine and beer will be available for purchase from the Starlight Café.

WHERE: Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Hall of the Universe, Fredrick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space. Enter at 81st Street.

ADMISSION: Free

Thank you to Ellen Evaristo of the American Museum of Natural History for the tip!