A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study of the innermost planet
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Eyeing the Field

Last week the spacecraft team installed and tested the electronics box for MESSENGER's Magnetometer - a necessary step before the team can install the instrument itself. Eventually the Magnetometer sensor will be mounted on a 3.6-meter (nearly 12-foot) boom that will keep it away from the spacecraft's magnetic field. In this view the Magnetometer electronics box is on the bottom of the spacecraft, close to where the engineers can be seen in the lower left..

Mercury's magnetic field (at the surface of the planet) is about 100 times weaker than Earth's. The Magnetometer will characterize Mercury's magnetic field in detail from orbit over four Mercurial years -- each 88 Earth days - helping scientists determine the field's exact strength and how that strength varies with position and altitude. This will provide crucial clues to help us determine the internal source of Mercury's magnetic field.

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Last updated: August 1, 2003


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