About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 13, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 7
New MESSENGER Photos Reveal Mercury As Never Seen Before

The largest impact feature at the top of the image is about 83 miles in diameter and is named Polygnotus, after a Greek painter from the fifth century B.C. This basin has a central peak ring and is embayed with smooth plains material, which is very different in texture from the surrounding terrain.
Photo by NASA / Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory / Carnegie Institution of Washington

By Paulette Campbell
Applied Physics Laboratory

When Mariner 10 flew past Mercury three times in 1974 and 1975, the probe imaged less than half the planet. In January, during MESSENGER's first flyby, its cameras returned images of about 20 percent of the planet's surface missed by Mariner 10. Last week, MESSENGER successfully completed its second flyby of Mercury, and its cameras captured more than 1,200 high-resolution and color images of the planet, unveiling another 30 percent of Mercury's surface that had never before been seen by spacecraft.

"The MESSENGER team is extremely pleased by the superb performance of the spacecraft and the payload," said MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "We are now on the correct trajectory for eventual insertion into orbit around Mercury, and all of our instruments returned data as planned from the side of the planet opposite to the one we viewed during our first flyby. When these data have been digested and compared, we will have a global perspective of Mercury for the first time."

Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

Images from the flyby are available online at:


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |