MESSENGER at Mercury

The Innermost Planet Reveals Its Secrets

Sean C. Solomon
Director, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington

2291st Meeting Abstract
Friday, November 18, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Sean C. Solomon


After three flybys of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft is now orbiting the innermost planet and collecting daily observations with its seven scientific instruments. This information is giving us the first global view of Mercury's interior, surface, and environment and the first continuing observations of the planet's extremely dynamic interaction with the Sun and the interplanetary medium. The lecture will summarize the MESSENGER mission, the observations returned so far, and our resulting new understanding of Mercury, the solar system's family of inner planets, and rocky planets in other planetary systems.

About the Author:

Sean C. Solomon is Director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He receive a BS from and a Ph.D. (in geophysics) from MIT. His research interests embrace marine geophysics and geodynamics, and he has participated on research ranging from oceanographic expeditions on Earth to spacecraft missions to Venus, Mars, and Mercury. In addition to being a member of the MESSENGER team, he is also a team member on the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission and the Plume-Lithosphere Undersea Melt Experiment (PLUME). For the past 10 years, he also has been the Principal Investigator for Carnegie's research as part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).

Dr. Solomon is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Arthur L. Day Prize and Lectureship from the National Academies in 1999. He was also awarded the G. K. Gilbert Award from the Geological Society of America that year. He was president of the American Geophysical Union from 1996 to 1998, and he received that organization's Harry H. Hess Medal in 2005. He is a recipient of Caltech's 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award. On behalf of the MESSENGER team he received the 2009 Nelson P. Jackson Aerospace Award of the National Space Club.

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