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April 04, 2011

Mariner 10 is in a new resonant state that swings it by Mercury once every Earth year, on April 1st. No Joke!

On April 1the Mercury MESSENGER was taking some of its first images from Mercury’s orbit when it captured a photo of Mariner 10. Mariner 10 is the old spacecraft that flew by Mercury three times in 1974 and 1975 before communication with the probe was lost.

It was first thought of that it could not be Mariner 10 because it was not suppose to be around Mercury at this time. “Mariner 10 and Mercury were in a resonant state that brought the spacecraft by the planet once every two Mercury years. By my calculation, this appearance is 23 days early.”

Minutes later they calculated that Mariner 10 appeared to be in a new resonant state, one synchronous with Earth’s period. The ancient spacecraft is now in an orbit that swings it by Mercury once every Earth year, on April 1st.

This is a pretty cool discovery by the Messenger and a comical one since it was on April Fools day. Although we would much rather find more important information with the pictures from Messenger, I thought it was interesting to think about how things we send up to space can become a permanent fixture in resonance.

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Posted by scottymg at April 4, 2011 05:59 PM


Once I got to the end of your post I thought it was an April Fools joke! But that is really cool that the MESSENGER was able to take a picture of of the Mariner 10. So it has been lost this whole time and really it was just resonating around Mercury? Thats really interesting. i'm surprised that they did not find it earlier.

Posted by: ninagav at April 5, 2011 01:00 AM

That's nuts and is funny! It is crazy how Mariner 10 is still up in space in a resonant state. I am also surprised that they did not find Mariner 10 before now since people across the world have sent numerous spacecrafts up to space since 1974-75, and our technology has greatly improved.

Posted by: melmccor at April 5, 2011 12:41 PM

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