MESSENGER's Camera Reveals Mercury in New
MESSENGER's modern camera revealed
details in the large, shadow-filled, double-ringed crater
named Vivaldi that were not well seen by Mariner
Photo courtesy NASA/JHU Applied
Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
On Jan. 14, more than three decades after Mariner 10's
last flyby, MESSENGER passed 124
miles above Mercury's surface and executed extensive
scientific observations, including imaging a
large portion of Mercury's surface that has never before
been seen by a spacecraft.
On approach, the spacecraft's Narrow-Angle Camera on
the Mercury Dual Imaging System
instrument captured this view of the planet's rugged,
cratered landscape illuminated obliquely by the
sun. Taken from a distance of about 11,000 miles, about 56
minutes before the spacecraft's closest
encounter with Mercury, it shows a region roughly 300 miles
across, and craters as small as six-tenths
of a mile.
The large, shadow-filled, double-ringed crater to the
right was glimpsed by Mariner 10 and
named Vivaldi, after the Italian composer. Its outer ring
has a diameter of about 125 miles.
MESSENGER's modern camera, however, has revealed detail
that was not well seen by Mariner 10,
including the broad ancient depression overlapped by the
lower-left part of the Vivaldi crater.
The mission's science team is in the process of
evaluating later images snapped from even closer
range showing features on the side of Mercury never seen by
Mariner 10. It is already clear that
MESSENGER's superior camera will tell us much that could
not be resolved even on the side of
Mercury viewed by Mariner's vidicon camera in the
Images and science results from the flyby will be
posted as they become available. For more
information, go to
Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory built and
operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and
manages the mission for NASA.
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