- (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
A "Cookie Monster crater" has been found on Mercury. An impact basin containing two small craters was found by NASA, and had scientists commenting on its extraordinary likeness to the much-loved "Sesame Street" character.
Scientists working on NASA's Messenger mission to Mercury are the ones who spotted the formation, and researchers posted a photo of the crater with a title "Anyone Else Think This Looks Like the Cookie Monster?" on the Flickr page of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., on Oct. 12.
At the site a giant crater can be seen, created by a space rock smashing into Mercury long ago. At the upper corner of the main impact site there are two smaller craters - which form the "Cookie Monster Crater" - created by two smaller asteroids that must have hit the site following the much larger crater that made the bigger crater.
The scientists posted a message saying, "The superposition of younger craters on older craters (in this case two smaller craters upon the rim of an older crater) can result in landforms that appear to resemble more familiar shapes to human eyes."
They added, "More generally, the Law of Superposition allows scientists to determine which surface features pre- and postdate others, leading to a better understanding of the geological history of different regions of Mercury's surface."
The Messenger probe was launched into space in 2004 and was the first spacecraft to enter orbit around Mercury in 2011.
It is part of a $446 million mission that hopes to map out the landscape of Mercury. It originally was planned to conduct its mission for one year, but it was agreed to extend its mission by a further year to ensure it completed its work and gained as much data as possible before returning.