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Planet Mercury as seen from the MESSENGER spacecraft in 2008.
Credit: NASA
Click on image for a high-resolution version.



The MESSENGER spacecraft is currently in orbit around planet Mercury. The Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer (FIPS) on board is taking the first global measurements of the charged particles in Mercury's space environment. FIPS found that at the magnetic cusps near the planet's poles, the solar wind is able to bear down on Mercury enough to blast particles from its surface into its wispy atmosphere.
Shannon Kohlitz, Media Academica, LLC
Click on image for a high-resolution version.