MESSENGER Sends Back First Image of Mercury from Orbit

And it looks a lot like our moon…below is an artists rendition, and below the “Continue reading…” line is the actual image. From the MESSENGER website:

images from the flyby thumbnailEarly this morning, at 5:20 am EDT, MESSENGER captured this historic image of Mercury. This image is the first ever obtained from a spacecraft in orbit about the Solar System’s innermost planet. Over the subsequent six hours, MESSENGER acquired an additional 363 images before downlinking some of the data to Earth.

The MESSENGER team is currently looking over the newly returned data, which are still continuing to come down. Tomorrow, March 30, at 2 pm EDT, attend the NASA media telecon to view more images from MESSENGER’s first look at Mercury from orbit.

The dominant rayed crater in the upper portion of the image is Debussy. The smaller crater Matabei with its unusual dark rays is visible to the west of Debussy. The bottom portion of this image is near Mercury’s south pole and includes a region of Mercury’s surface not previously seen by spacecraft. Compare this image to the planned image footprint to see the region of newly imaged terrain, south of Debussy. Over the next three days, MESSENGER will acquire 1185 additional images in support of MDIS commissioning-phase activities. The year-long primary science phase of the mission will begin on April 4, and the orbital observation plan calls for MDIS to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER’s science goals.

First Image Ever Obtained from Mercury Orbit
Click on image to enlarge.
First Image Ever Obtained from Mercury Orbit
Release Date: March 29, 2011

Date acquired: March 29, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 209877871
Image ID: 65056
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: -53.3°
Center Longitude: 13.0° E
Resolution: 2.7 kilometers/pixel (1.7 miles/pixel)
Scale: Debussy has a diameter of 80 kilometers (50 miles)

MESSENGER has delivered its first image since entering orbit about Mercury on March 17. It was taken today at 5:20 am EDT by the Mercury Dual Imaging System as the spacecraft sailed high above Mercury’s south pole, and provides a glimpse of portions of Mercury’s surface not previously seen by spacecraft. The image was acquired as part of the orbital commissioning phase of the MESSENGER mission. Continuous global mapping of Mercury will begin on April 4.

“The entire MESSENGER team is thrilled that spacecraft and instrument checkout has been proceeding according to plan,” says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “The first images from orbit and the first measurements from MESSENGER’s other payload instruments are only the opening trickle of the flood of new information that we can expect over the coming year. The orbital exploration of the Solar System’s innermost planet has begun.”

Several other images will be available Wednesday, March 30, in conjunction with a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT to discuss the initial orbital images taken from the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Media teleconference participants are:
— Sean Solomon, MESSENGER principal investigator, Carnegie Institution of Washington
— Eric Finnegan, MESSENGER mission systems engineer, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel. Md.

To participate in the teleconference, reporters must contact Dwayne Brown at dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov or 202-358-1726 for dial-in instructions. During the teleconference, MESSENGER information and images will be available at http://www.nasa.gov/messenger and http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/news_room/presscon8.html.

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live on NASA’s website at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio.

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39 Responses to MESSENGER Sends Back First Image of Mercury from Orbit

  1. Jason Joice M.D. says:

    Very cool. Actually, I suppose it’s very hot…and very cold, depending on where you’re at on the surface.

  2. Pamela Gray says:

    Looks like the navel end I saw on the full moon last week. Way kool.

  3. genomega1 says:

    Awesome! and to think that Obama gutted the space program.

  4. Binny says:

    That bit that has been cropped of the top of the picture must be where the alien base is. /sarc

  5. wesley bruce says:

    If you can walk on the moon and survive there you can survive on mercury. The colonies would be at the poles were mast mounted solar cells can always see the looming sun on the horizon. The farms and villages would be in deep pits 20 metres deep with chevrons and more sun facing mirrors. A Chevron is a radiation shield with mirrors integrated in. A planar paras-cope. Radiation does not reflect around corners light does. It would not stop all the radiation but would stop enough to halt damage to plants. Solar flares would arrive without much warning, two or three minutes, so only robots work at the surface. Light elements mostly Carbon and hydrogen may need to be imported from Venus.
    No colony effort could be expected until 2080 or so. Mars and the asteroids are easier, 2030 or so. Someone will have a go, the mineral resources of an entire planet await the ambitious.

  6. Hank Hancock says:

    That Debussy crater is remarkable! Just imagine, we are the first humans in the history of earth to see Mercury in such vivid detail and up close. I’m awe struck.

  7. mr.artday says:

    The last I heard, you could not ship cut diamonds from Mars at a profit. The infrastructure and fuel costs, especially if there are humans on board, more than consume all the profits.

  8. Frank K. says:

    Binny says:
    March 29, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    “That bit that has been cropped of the top of the picture must be where the alien base is. /sarc”

    You mean the alien base that’s zapping the Earth with their global warming ray gun?? I knew it! That’s why the models are all wrong…it’s the aliens!!
    /sarc

  9. TrueNorthist says:

    This brings back memories of 1979 when the first close up images of Jupiter were beamed back by the Voyager probes. That was a turning point in unmanned space exploration, but these latest images from Mercury are equally enthralling! I also remember the excitement of following the progress of those two little landers that could: Spirit and Opportunity. I guess I owe all you American taxpayers a huge thanks for sharing all this wonderful stuff!

    Cheers!

  10. Andrew30 says:

    I wonder what is the cause of the ‘thing’ about a 1/4 of the way down from the top of the image and about a 1/4 of the way in from the left. It looks to be casting a inverted V shaped shadow. I wonder if it really tall, much taller than any of other the craters are deep. More pictures, we need more angles. It is amazing that humans could get so far so fast.

  11. TrueNorthist says:

    wesley bruce says:
    March 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Sounds like the backdrop of a Larry Niven novel!

  12. ShaneCMuir says:

    Notice all the craters from electrical arcing?

    They are not from meteorites..

    “Today, nothing is more important to the future and credibility of science than liberation from the gravity-driven universe of prior theory. A mistaken supposition has not only prevented intelligent and sincere investigators from seeing what would otherwise be obvious, it has bred indifference to possibilities that could have inspired the sciences for decades.”
    David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/

  13. HR says:

    That’s great, real Boy’s Own stuff.

    From the shadowing it looks like matabei is sticking up in the air, and the darker lines look like the remnants of plumes/lava flows. Does Mercury have volcanos?

  14. crosspatch says:

    One thing I noticed in that photo is how all the craters seem to be the same depth no matter what the size is. It is almost like there is either a very hard or a very soft layer. Maybe only a thin crust and a semi-molten mantle?

  15. Mr Lynn says:

    mr.artday says:
    March 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm
    The last I heard, you could not ship cut diamonds from Mars at a profit. The infrastructure and fuel costs, especially if there are humans on board, more than consume all the profits.

    That’s now. Just wait. Not too long, I hope.

    The whole key to exploiting and colonizing the solar system lies in cheaper access to low-Earth orbit. Once there, it’s a piece o’ cake

    Oh yes, and chemical fuel is not a problem on Mars. Robert Zubrin showed how you can make it with just some liquid hydrogen and a small reactor.

    /Mr Lynn

  16. FijiDave says:

    Ackchooly, Debussy is not an asteroid impact point at all. Anyone with half a brain can see that it is merely a place where rock salt has been put down for large cows. Their tracks can easily be seen leading to and from the rock salt.

    The place looks a bit overstocked, though.

    Great science, and thanks to the US taxpayer for funding the project. Look forward to seeing higher resolution photos (maybe we can see the breed of cow!)

  17. AndyW35 says:

    So it’s got craters. I would never have guessed. Rather boring compared to some other planets and moons for the layman, no doubt the scientists will be enjoying the data though.

    Andy

  18. kbray in California says:

    The first thing that came to my mind’s eye was Manuel Noriega (aka Pineapple Visage)
    Craters must be linked together in the brain somehow.
    As a bit of trivia… he’s in France now…. but not at the Rivera…

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/07/07/us-france-panama-noriega-idUSTRE6662BJ20100707

  19. mrrabbit says:

    Followup to ShaneCMuir:

    Couldn’t help notice that there are also an awful lot of “hexagonal” craters in that picture both big and small.

    Followup to Andrew30:

    Was wondering the same thing…

    =8-)

  20. Followup to Andrew30: I think it the effect of a low incident angle impact from the debris splash is so severely one sided. See this effect with bullet penetration into mud at low angle. The most of the rest came in more near vertical I would guess, but the close ups will show the interesting details.

  21. xion III says:

    Followup to Andrew30. Shallow impacts from energy bubbles as the planetary bubble began to harden. Like rain, pitter patter, IMHO.
    Hence all circular, shallow and with raised center points in many cases. Some bubbles gas content only, others with water. others with rock cores. The polar caps, north and south, formed as votexes by EM current within the molten rock bubble. Thereby giving in solid rock the same shape as ANTARTICA with the current outbound polar vortex from the core of the Earth causing melt at the base of the cap.

  22. Chris Smith says:

    Hmmm, don’t want to p*** on the fireworks here, but as cool as it is to see images from far away places, it is not really all that useful to us here on planet earth at the moment. People complain about cuts to the space program, but the truth is we need the money to bomb Libya and run our Guantanamo torture camp. People forget sometimes that as the leaders of the free world we still have a human rights respecting democracy to run here.

  23. John Marshall says:

    Great picture and wonderful resolution. These satellites have some great cameras.

  24. wayne Job says:

    This planet seems to have more holes than a crumpet, either a bad case of acne in its youth or pox latter on. This is wonderful imagery and shows the bombardment that earth has also suffered in its youth. The accretion of wayward bits and pieces has made earth what it is, to see the bare impacts on another space body other than the moon is very special.

  25. Olen says:

    Before the successful use of rockets some scientists said it is impossible to generate enough power to escape the gravity of Earth. Where would we not be if the science had been settled on that claim? Send more pictures.

  26. Neo says:

    Not to seem underwhelm but it looks like Tyco .. on the moon.
    I hope there is something more interesting somewhere else on Mercury.

  27. Atomic Hairdryer says:

    Re Chris Smith

    Hmmm, don’t want to p*** on the fireworks here, but as cool as it is to see images from far away places, it is not really all that useful to us here on planet earth at the moment

    That’s a short sighted view, much like the current US administration. The pictures are neat, but Messenger also carries other instruments like the gamma, neutron and xray spectrometers. Those should tell us more about what it’s made from.

    Currently we’re told to recycle and conserve because of resource shortages, yet there are gigatonnes of resources above our heads. Getting up there currently is expensive, getting resources back down is less so. Yet NASA seems to be looking inward rather than out.

  28. DesertYote says:

    TrueNorthist says:
    March 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    wesley bruce says:
    March 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Sounds like the backdrop of a Larry Niven novel!
    ###

    Nah, Larry Niven would either move it away from the sun or, even better, use it as a base to station solar powered laser cannons to blast those stupid cats out of the sky!

  29. DesertYote says:

    mr.artday
    March 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    The last I heard, you could not ship cut diamonds from Mars at a profit. The infrastructure and fuel costs, especially if there are humans on board, more than consume all the profits.
    ####

    What a stupid thing to say. I hope you are not dumb enough to believe such greeny silliness. Do you have any idea what a diamond from Mars is worth?

  30. Tenuc says:

    Amazing picture and can’t wait to see some more!

    Interesting how most of the craters are circular. This would mean that most of the impacts must have been normal to the surface of the sphere. I wonder what caused that???

  31. Mac the Knife says:

    Way, WAY COOL! The resolution is excellent! In the lower right quadrant, a ridge/rift feature can be seen running diagonal (NW-SE) across a series of craters, suggesting perhaps some active faulting or tectonics.

    It was photos just like this that inspired a young lad (me) to complete BS/MS degrees in Metallurgical Engineering and go to work for McDonnell Douglas Astronautics many years ago!

    AndyW35 says:
    March 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm
    “So it’s got craters. I would never have guessed. Rather boring…”
    Andy – I will never be that jaded and uninspired. Ever.
    To many of us, the wonders of the Firmament are a sirens call, begging us to take the next step in human exploration and evolution. They sing to us like a sultry femme fatale, stirring us to risk fortunes, hazards, and heartbreaks in the exploration of every curve, limb, and feature of these heavenly bodies!

    DesertYote says:
    March 30, 2011 at 7:18 am
    TrueNorthist says:
    March 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm
    wesley bruce says:
    March 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    “Nah, Larry Niven would either move it away from the sun or, even better, use it as a base to station solar powered laser cannons to blast those stupid cats out of the sky!”

    To beer is human but to lap up devonhshire cream with whiskey is a Kzin!

  32. George E. Smith says:

    So if we got images; why do we need artists”impressions” ? Sounds like more modelling output to me.

  33. geoffchambers says:

    Your artist has missed out a key feature visible in the real photo – one one also visible on the Martian and lunar surfaces – the tendency of smaller, later craters to cluster around the edge of the larger craters – a feature inexplicable in conventional theories, but fully treated at the Electric Universe site.

  34. DennisA says:

    Andrew30

    Wind turbine shadow…..

  35. Dave Worley says:

    Object travelling nearer the sun are at perigee of their solar orbits and are travelling at a higher velocity than those further from the sun, so the impacts are surely more powerful there than farther out.
    Most objects orbit the sun on the same general plane as the planets. Strikes are less likely near the poles.
    Assuming we ever again elect a President with courage, our first lunar base should be located at a pole, sheltered in a crater for added safety.
    Thank goodness for our atmospheric shield!

  36. Kevin says:

    Mercury is ugly. There, I said it. It can never again be unsaid.

  37. Brian H says:

    geoff;
    “inexplicable”? You seriously underestimate Dr. Laaf Svalgeird. Or whoever.

  38. Olaf Koenders, Wizard of Oz? says:

    Damn! Now they’ll have to find names for all those craters..

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