May 2008: A new side to Mercury

This month's issue of Astronomy reveals Mercury's new face, shows how to observe dark nebulae, and explains how the birth of our Moon made Earth what it is today.
By | Published: March 26, 2008 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

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WAUKESHA, WI — Astronomy magazine’s May issue includes new information on Mercury and much more. NASA’s Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft flew by the innermost planet in January, snapping photos of the hidden hemisphere that had remained unobserved until now.

After a 2.23 billion mile trip, MESSENGER made its closest approach January 14 at a mere 125 miles from the surface of the planet. NASA scientists used the probe to study Mercury’s surface, atmosphere, and magnetic field. The photos reveal features on the planet that have not been seen anywhere else in our solar system.

“Mercury’s new face revealed,” by Astronomy Senior Editor Richard Talcott, describes what the spacecraft found and includes many new photos from the flyby.

How to observe dark nebulae
Learn how to observe the cold, dark clouds in our universe with “How to observe dark nebulae.” Author Steve Coe explains everything you need to know about dark nebulae and guides you through finding 12 of them in our galaxy.

Earth’s troubled adolescence
The Moon formed when a Mars-sized object collided with Earth, breaking off a chunk of debris that we now call our Moon. The creation of the Moon “launched a sequence of events that made our planet what it is today,” writes Richard Talcott in “Earth’s troubled adolescence.”

Learn about Earth’s different life stages and how the Moon affected our planet.

Could changing channels tune into alien civilizations?
An antenna farm in Australia is attempting to find extraterrestrial versions of radio and television signals in our solar system. “Could changing channels tune into alien civilizations?” by Steve Nadis, discusses how two Harvard physicists are joining in on the search for life on other planets.

Also in this issue

  • “Inside NASA’s Deep Space Network” — Read how NASA communicates with its 30 spacecraft across the solar system.
  • “Choose the dome that’s right for you” — Looking for a backyard observatory? Learn how to find the one that lets you observe like a pro.
  • “Tele Vue’s new eyepiece field tested” — The Ethos offers an ultrawide field of view at high power.
  • “The sky this month” — Exclusive pullout star charts guide you through May’s night sky.
  • The May issue of Astronomy also includes Astro news, Bob Berman’s strange universe, Glenn Chaple’s observing basics, Phil Harrington’s binocular universe, Stephen James O’Meara’s secret sky, New products, and Reader gallery.