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NASA Team Studies Middle-aged Sun by Tracking Motion of Mercury 5nvklj





NASA Team Studies Middle-aged Sun by Tracking Motion of Mercury 9tpt39

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NASA Team Studies Middle-aged Sun by Tracking Motion of Mercury

Dragon
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NASA Team Studies Middle-aged Sun by Tracking Motion of Mercury Empty NASA Team Studies Middle-aged Sun by Tracking Motion of Mercury

Post by Dragon Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:05 am

Like the waistband of a couch potato in midlife, the orbits of planets in our solar system are expanding. It happens because the Sun’s gravitational grip gradually weakens as our star ages and loses mass. Now, a team of NASA and MIT scientists has indirectly measured this mass loss and other solar parameters by looking at changes in Mercury’s orbit.

The new values improve upon earlier predictions by reducing the amount of uncertainty. That’s especially important for the rate of solar mass loss, because it’s related to the stability of G, the gravitational constant. Although G is considered a fixed number, whether it’s really constant is still a fundamental question in physics.

“Mercury is the perfect test object for these experiments because it is so sensitive to the gravitational effect and activity of the Sun,” said Antonio Genova, the lead author of the study published in Nature Communications and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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Post by Dragon Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:06 am

NASA Team Studies Middle-aged Sun by Tracking Motion of Mercury Sun-and-mercury
Credits: NASA/SDO

Mercury’s proximity to the Sun and small size make it exquisitely sensitive to the dynamics of the Sun and its gravitational pull.

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Post by Dragon Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:07 am

NASA Team Studies Middle-aged Sun by Tracking Motion of Mercury Mercury-sun_image
Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA and MIT scientists analyzed subtle changes in Mercury’s motion to learn about the Sun and how its dynamics influence the planet’s orbit. The position of Mercury over time was determined from radio tracking data obtained while NASA’s MESSENGER mission was active.

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Post by Dragon Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:09 am



“The study demonstrates how making measurements of planetary orbit changes throughout the solar system opens the possibility of future discoveries about the nature of the Sun and planets, and indeed, about the basic workings of the universe,” said co-author Maria Zuber, vice president for research at MIT.

 

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