One thing that NASA’s Messenger was able to find out, something that scientists had been trying to find out for years, was how Mercury’s magnetic field works. The reason they are so interested in this is because they believed that both planets, the Earth and Mercury, share a lot of similarities.
Mercury’s magnetic field may not be as intense as that of Earth’s, with something working on a smaller scale compared to ours.
The data that the Messenger was able to gather and then beam back to Earth is something that’s unique. The information gave scientists an idea of how Mercury’s magnetic field developed throughout its existence. Catherine Johnson, the lead author of the study, pointed out that, “This means Mercury’s core has to be at least partially liquid.”
She went on to explain, “This was a surprise at first because Mercury is very small, so you would expect it to cool quickly after it formed and be completely solid. Scientists later realized if there was a little bit of nonmetallic stuff in Mercury’s core, that’d lower its freezing point and make it hard to be completely solid.”
The Mercury mission started in 2011, and came to its conclusion upon the demise of the probe as it crashed on Mercury’s surface. What the scientists learned from Mercury, things such as magnetized rocks, could also give them hints for their studies on Earth’s and on the other planets’ magnetic development.
This means that, due to the discovery of the magnetized rocks, scientists will now be able to come up with a more solid understanding how such magnetic fields work throughout the years. Another discovery was that Mercury has a light-density iron core, which explains what happens after a long period of time passes.
Mercury has ceased to be an enigma and has become better understood due to the work done by the Messenger. MESSENGER will no doubt become a part of scientific annals, especially since what it managed to discover will still be studied for years to come. The scientists have something to fallback to as they continue to study Mercury in the future.