Stories tagged Mercury


Free CFL recycling

Free CFL recyling @ Menards
Free CFL recyling @ MenardsCourtesy Minnesota Energy Challenge
Those compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) should keep saving you money on your electric bills for many years. When they do burn out your need to safely recycle them. I burned one out in just one day because I had a dimmer switch.

Starting today I can recycle my CFL bulbs for free at any Menards store in Minnesota thanks to The Center for Energy and Environment and Great River Energy.


Oh my! Researchers in Virginia have found high levels of mercury in local songbirds. The birds live near a contaminated river, but do not eat any fish or other water creatures that might be contaminated. So, how did they get mercury inside of them?

Turns out the birds ate lots of spiders. And spiders are scavengers who’ll eat pretty much anything. Mercury from the environment accumulates in them, and gets passed along to the birds.

The next question is – how do the land-dwelling spiders get water-borne mercury inside of them?


If only pictures had sound: Look--all the stars are holding up their lighters!
If only pictures had sound: Look--all the stars are holding up their lighters!Courtesy NASA
Isn’t it embarrassing when you realize that you’ve been operating on a misconception for, well, a really long time? Like, “Oh, my god, his girlfriend’s name is ‘Sara’! I’ve been calling her Starla!” or “Full House’s Uncle Jessie was supposed to be a functional illiterate? Of course!”

It’s the pits, you know? And it has happened to me again.

Ever wonder where hardcore metal bands come from? Not me—I always assumed they usually came out of Scandinavia, or horrible little Chicago suburbs. It seemed like a pretty safe bet, but now I’ve been forced to reevaluate the whole thing, and I’m not looking like a very smart guy. No, it’s clear to me now, after reading about a recent geophysical theory, that the most hard core hardcore metal bands must come from the planet Mercury.

How do I know this? It’s obvious. New geophysical models suggest that it “snows” iron on Mercury. That’s pretty hardcore, but it doesn’t stop there—here on Earth, our snow falls in delightful little flakes, like tiny, pretty fairy hats. With snow like shaped that, it’s amazing we can even listen to metal without our heads turning inside out, melting, and then bursting into explosive gas. See, on Mercury the snow falls in cubes. Cubes of iron. And these cubes don’t just drift lazily through the atmosphere like boring Earth snow. In fact, they don’t move through the atmosphere at all, because on the planet Mercury, it snows iron cubes underground.

It’s thought that the core of Mercury may be made up of molten iron and sulfur. As this white hot brimstone brew approaches the surface of the planet, it cools, and the iron condenses into cubes that sink back into the core. These conditions may explain why Mercury has such a weak magnetic field (Mercury is the only other terrestrial planet in our solar system that possesses a global magnetic field, but the field is 100 times weaker than Earth’s for some reason). They certainly explain where the best blood drinking, arson committing, vocal cord scraping metal bands come from (specifically, I imagine that the planet periodically vomits broods of spike covered babies from volcanoes). Our fluffy, whimsical, puff ‘n stuff snow, on the other hand, is clearly the reason why we produce the people that make the computers that make easy listening music.

Iron snow. Underground. Great.


Moon or Mercury?: This image from the recent Mercury passby of the Messenger spacecraft shows the planet's surface to be much like our Moon's.
Moon or Mercury?: This image from the recent Mercury passby of the Messenger spacecraft shows the planet's surface to be much like our Moon's.Courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Just like that person heading back from the photo shop with a new packet of developed film, NASA is sharing its latest views of the planet closest to our solar system’s center. And what we’re seeing is surprising astronomers.

The images were among 1,2000 collected by the Messenger spacecraft as it passed Mercury two-and-a-half weeks ago. A full series of photos and movies is available through this NASA link.

These new photos have uncovered some new discoveries about Mercury’s geology. Particularly interesting is a formation called “The Spider,” a crater-like depression with more than 100 narrow troughs radiating from it.

Also discovered were a bunch of ancient volcanoes and a very cratered, rocky surface that makes Mercury look a lot like our Moon.

Messenger will pass by the planet a couple more times in the coming years before settling into an orbit around the planet in 2011 to do further study. Among the tasks it will tackle on that part of the journey is to examine the magnetic fields that spur out from the planet. As far as astronomers can tell, Mercury is the only other planet along with Earth that has such strong magnetic fields.


Artist's concept of Messenger at Mercury.
Artist's concept of Messenger at Mercury.Courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Yesterday at 1:04 p.m. Central Time the Messenger spacecraft passed within 124 miles of Mercury – the first of three gravity assist flybys used to get the spacecraft into orbit around the planet in 2011.

Messenger, launched in 2004, took more than 1,200 images of the planet (including images of the never before seen opposite side of the planet) during this flyby. It is the first spacecraft to visit Mercury since the Mariner 10 in 1975. The data should be arriving back to Earth as I write this on Tuesday.

Follow the links to learn more about the planet, spacecraft and mission.