News & AnalysisPlanetary Science

Mercury Looking Less Exotic, More a Member of the Family

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Science  30 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6051, pp. 1812
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6051.1812

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Mercury's small size and relatively large inner iron core have always made it the odd planet of the inner solar system. But observations from the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury are bringing the littlest planet back toward, if not into, the fold. The move toward family reconciliation comes courtesy of NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, which went into orbit around Mercury on 18 March. As MESSENGER team members report in seven papers in this issue of Science, some of the early returns only enhance Mercury's reputation for quirkiness. But clues to Mercury's mysterious origins point instead in more conventional directions.