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:
Early 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.