Messages from Mercury

by Jason Major on May 23, 2011

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MESSENGER's wide-angle view from Mercury's south pole

It’s been just over two months since the MESSENGER spacecraft successfully entered orbit around Mercury, back on March 18, and it’s been enthusiastically returning image after image of our solar system’s innermost planet at a unprecedented rate. Which, of course, is just fine with us!

The image above shows Mercury’s southern hemisphere and the bright rays of the 50-km-wide crater Han Kan. It was acquired on May 17, 2011.

Below are more recent images from MESSENGER… some of which show regions and features that have never previously been mapped – or even named!

Unnamed double peak-ring basin. Acquired May 13.

Detail of the mountains that make up the rim of Caloris Basin. Acquired May 5.

Narrow-angle camera view of the 100-km-wide Atget crater. Acquired May 10.

Color map of Mercury's surface. The bright crater is Snorri (21km wide). Acquired April 15.

Click on the images to see more detail on the MESSENGER mission site.

MESSENGER’s orbit about Mercury is highly elliptical, taking it 200 kilometers (124 miles) above its northern surface at the closest pass and 15,193 kilometers (9,420 miles) away from the south pole at furthest. Check out this video showing an animation of how a typical MESSENGER orbit would be executed.

Image credits: Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft’s seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System’s innermost planet. During the one-year primary mission, MDIS is scheduled to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER’s science goals.

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Ariane Stevens May 23, 2011 at 7:27 PM

Gee. Good to see Mercury in so much detail.
Waiting all this time to see Mercury “full faced” was truly worth it!

Aqua4U May 25, 2011 at 4:00 PM

I really, really, really like that colorized image of crater Snorri….AWESOME!

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