New MESSENGER Photos Reveal Mercury As Never Seen
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
By Paulette Campbell
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:
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