You seldom hear about the planet Mercury.
It does not contain the same mystery to it as Mars. It's not as bright as Jupiter or Venus especially. It does not have the recent controversy of Pluto. You can't even see it all that well due to its proximity to the Sun. In fact, we pretty much tend to forget it's in our solar system altogether.
But now, NASA's Messenger probe is in orbit around the first planet of our star system and sending back impressive pics. Just glancing at the pictures, Mercury seems very much like our Moon, essentially a big rock in space. So what's the big deal about it?
First of all, any further understanding about our universe is something we can only benefit from. Secondly, we can apply knowledge gleaned from Mercury to other aspects of cosmology. Why does the planet have a global magnetic field while Venus and Mars do not? Mercury is thought to have a metal-rich core. How big is it and could we mine it one day? Are the dark shadows of its craters frozen water similar to the Moon? NASA is planning upcoming press conferences to announce any findings.
You can find more photos from Messenger on Space.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets