NASA team and MIT scientists studied the changes in Mercury's orbit to determine any changes in sun's health. The study revealed that the sun is losing mass over time which in turn, is expanding the waistband of our solar system.
The gravitational pull of the sun is weakening. Mercury is much more sensitive to these changes as it is the closest planet to the Earth. These revelations helped the team of scientists to learn more about the Einstein's theory of general relativity. Einstein discovered that all massive objects including the sun have the effect of warping the space-time continuum around them. Since, Mercury is the closest to the sun; it is the perfect test object for the experiment. Scientists determined the small differences in the Mercury's position by determining radio tracking data which monitored the location of NASA's messenger spacecraft. The spacecraft made 3 flybys of Mercury in 2008 and 2009. It orbited the Mercury between March 2011 - April 2015. The mission ended when the messenger ran out of gas and crashed into Mercury in 2015. But, the scientists were able to harness sufficient data to determine sun's gravitational pull over time and dig a little deeper into the theory of general relativity. The conclusions from the study for sure open a lot new possibilities to determine the nature of the Sun and the planets and our complete solar system.
By: Neha Maheshwari