MESSENGER Returns Images from Oct. 6 Mercury Fly-By

October 7, 2008
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

MESSENGER is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to the sun. On Oct. 6, 2008, at roughly 4:40 a.m. ET, MESSENGER flew by Mercury for the second time this year. During the encounter, the probe swung just 125 miles (200 kilometers) above the cratered surface of Mercury, snapping hundreds of pictures and collecting a variety of other data from the planet as it gains a critical gravity assist that keeps the probe on track to become the first spacecraft ever to orbit the innermost planet beginning in March 2011.

At roughly 1:50 a.m. ET on October 7, MESSENGER's most recent images began to be received back on Earth. The spectacular image shown here is one of the first to be returned. It shows Mercury about 90 minutes after the spacecraft’s closest approach.

The bright crater just south of the center of the image is Kuiper, identified on images from the Mariner 10 mission in the 1970s. For most of the terrain east of Kuiper, toward the limb (edge) of the planet, the departing images are the first spacecraft views of that portion of Mercury’s surface. A striking characteristic of this newly imaged area is the large pattern of rays that extend from the northern region of Mercury to regions south of Kuiper.

Provided by NASA

Explore further: Researchers find most volcanic activity on Mercury stopped about 3.5 billion years ago

Related Stories

Resolving the planetesimal belt around HR8799

August 15, 2016

Planets develop from the dusty placental disk of material that surrounds a star after it begins to shine. The dust in that disk, according to most models, starts to stick to itself until clumps develop large enough to attract ...

Researchers trace Mercury's origins to rare meteorite

June 27, 2016

Around 4.6 billion years ago, the Solar System was a chaos of collapsing gas and spinning debris. Small particles of gas and dust clumped together into larger and more massive meteoroids that in turn smashed together to form ...

Recommended for you

Fossilized rivers suggest warm, wet ancient Mars

August 23, 2016

Extensive systems of fossilised riverbeds have been discovered on an ancient region of the Martian surface, supporting the idea that the now cold and dry Red Planet had a warm and wet climate about 4 billion years ago, according ...

Image: Planck's flame-filled view of the Polaris Flare

August 23, 2016

This image from ESA's Planck satellite appears to show something quite ethereal and fantastical: a sprite-like figure emerging from scorching flames and walking towards the left of the frame, its silhouette a blaze of warm-hued ...

What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution

August 19, 2016

Speculating about what aliens look like has kept children, film producers and scientists amused for decades. If they exist, will extra terrestrials turn out to look similar to us, or might they take a form beyond our wildest ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.