Our solar system is full of some unforgettable landmarks. Jupiter has a storm bigger than our entire home planet. Mars has a mountain that stretches 15+ miles high. Saturn has its unmistakable rings. But what about our innermost planet? If you’re not an astronomer or learning about the planets in grammar school, it’s easy to forget poor old Mercury. Maybe that will change now that they’ve discovered Mickey Mouse on the planet’s surface.
According to the L.A. Times, the crater formation that bears a remarkable resemblance to a certain big-eared cartoon character appeared amongst the 100,000 images of Mercury sent back by NASA’s Messenger probe. Sadly, Mercury Mouse (TM pending) wasn’t created by a single, incredibly awesome triple-asteroid impact. Instead, NASA says that the formation is an “accumulation of craters over Mercury’s long geologic history.” Either that or Disney’s marketing department is far more powerful than anyone had previously believed possible.
Messenger is short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging. That proves that, regardless of the budget cuts, NASA is still leading the pack when it comes to creating ungainly acronyms. The probe was launched back in August 2004 and officially entered orbit above the scorching surface of Mercury on March 18, 2011. The craft’s extended mission is scheduled to last through March 2013.
Image courtesy NASA