Mercury on Your Desk

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 8 2014 8:00 AM

WANT Part XIX: Mercury Globe Edition

Mercury globe
No room on your desk for this? Ah, a literal first world problem.

Photo by Sean Walker/Sky and Telescope

As a geek, I have a part of my brain that lusts after cool toys. Sure, I’ve wanted a full-sized robot replica from Lost in Space but at 25 grand it was a bit dear, and the glowy Moon credenza was so expensive the price wasn’t even listed.

But now we have something both totally cool and relatively affordable: a full globe of the planet Mercury, using images from the amazing MESSENGER space probe!

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It’s made by Replogle, renowned for their globes, and sold by my friends at Sky and Telescope magazine. I have one of their topographic moon globes and it’s really nice; the attention to detail is excellent and it’s very sturdy. It sits on my desk and I always get comments on it from visitors.

Mercury
One of my favorite pictures of Mercury ever taken, shot by the MESSENGER spacecraft.

Photo by NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

So I imagine this Mercury globe is of similar top-notch quality. Up until very recently we didn’t even have a map of the entire surface of Mercury; from Earth it’s very difficult to observe, and earlier space probes didn’t see the whole planet. MESSENGER has been in orbit around the tiny, scorched planet since 2011, mapping the entire world in high-resolution as it flew over it. The pictures have been stunning.

Mercury looks superficially like the Moon, but when you examine it more closely the differences start to assert themselves. Craters sizes are different, contrast across the two worlds’ surfaces varies differently, and there are fewer mountains on Mercury than the Moon.

I think this globe would make a handsome feature in anyone’s house, and at under $100 it’s not necessarily bank-breaking. If I had a few square centimeters to spare on my desk next to my Moon globe, TARDIS USB hub, and flying saucer lamp, I’m sure this would be on my birthday list.

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Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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