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Last Updated on Friday, 07 May 2010 19:51
Published on Wednesday, 23 February 2005 00:00


The mysterious planet Mercury will be the subject of this week's Open Discussion Meeting organised by the Royal Astronomical Society.


Leading space scientists from the UK, Europe and the United States will summarise our current, limited knowledge of the innermost planet in the Solar System and look forward to future missions and instrument packages - in particular the ambitious European Space Agency - Japanese Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science mission known as Bepi Colombo.

Media representatives are welcome to attend. Requests for interviews may be made by contacting the RAS Press Officer, Peter Bond (see contact details above).

Most speakers are expected to be available for interview during the lunch break, immediately after the meeting, or by prior arrangement. (On the day of the meeting, please use Peter Bond's mobile phone number, 07711-213486).


Although it is one of the closest planets to the Earth, Mercury remains an enigma, the terrestrial planet about which we know least. This is partly because it is hard to observe, since it is always close to the Sun in the sky, and partly because it is very small - not much larger than our Moon.

Most of our current knowledge is based upon information returned by the Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974-5. During three flybys of the planet, Mariner 10 imaged about 40% of Mercury's surface. Little is known about the unseen far side, although radar observations suggest the presence of giant impact craters and the possibility of water ice inside permanently shaded, polar craters.

Much of what we do know is paradoxical and challenges our understanding of planetary formation and evolution. Why is Mercury so dense compared to other terrestrial planets? Why does it have a magnetic field? What is its history? Are there volcanoes on its unseen side? Without an atmosphere, how does it support a magnetosphere? What is the origin of its tenuous exosphere?

Scientists hope that many of these questions will be answered by BepiColombo. Mysterious Mercury awaits.


10:00. Registration and Coffee

10:30. Professor Manuel Grande (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory): "Mercury - What We Know and What We Don't"

10:50. Professor Andre Balogh (Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, London): "Mercury's Magnetic Field"

11:10. Professor Lionel Wilson (Lancaster University): "Internal Structure of Mercury and Implications for Surface Volcanism"

11:25. Dr. Sarah Dunkin (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory): "Surface Morphology of Mercury"

11:40. Dr. Giacomo Giampieri (Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, London): "Probing Mercury's Internal Magnetic Field"

11:55. Dr. Jim Slavin (NASA Goddard Spaceflight Centre): "Mercury's Magnetosphere"

12:15. Professor Fred Taylor (Oxford University): "The Surface and Atmosphere of Mercury"

12:30. LUNCH   13:15. Dr. Alan Fitzsimmons (Queens University of Belfast): "Earth-based Observations of Mercury's Exosphere"

13:30. Dr. Rejean Grard (ESA) "The ESA/ISAS Bepi Colombo Mission to Mercury"

13:50. Dr. Andrew Coates (Mullard Space Science Laboratory -University College London): "Plasma in the Hermean Magnetosphere"

14:05. Dr. Lutz Richter (DLR - German Aerospace Research Institute): "A Mercury Mole for Regolith Measurements"

14:20. Dr. Andrew Ball (Open University): "HP3: A Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package for the Surface of Mercury"

14:35. Mark Bentley (Open University): "In-situ Measurements of Mercury's Regolith"

14:50. Dr. Tony Cook (Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC) - "Mercurian Topography from Mariner 10 Stereo Images"



Issued by:
Peter Bond, RAS Press Officer (Space Science).
10 Harrier Close, Cranleigh,
Surrey, GU6 7BS, United Kingdom.
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672 Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047
Mobile: 07711-213486 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For further information, contact the meeting organisers:

Dr John Zarnecki,
Planetary & Space Sciences Research Institute, Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)1908-659599 Fax: +44 (0)1908-655910
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  


Professor Manuel Grande,  Space Science Department, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Oxfordshire, OX11 0QX, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)1235-446501. Fax: +44 (0)1235-446509
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.