With just one day until MESSENGER's historic flyby of Mercury, MESSENGER has Mercury clearly in its sights. The Narrow Angle Camera, part of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), took this image on January 12, 2008, when MESSENGER was about 1.2 million kilometers (750,000 miles) away from Mercury. Mercury has a diameter of about 4880 kilometers (3030 miles), and this image has a resolution of about 31 kilometers/pixel (19 miles/pixel).
Tomorrow, Monday, January 14, 2008, at 19:04:39 UTC (2:04:39 pm EST), MESSENGER will pass a mere 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the surface of Mercury and will be the first spacecraft to visit Mercury in nearly a third of a century, since Mariner 10 flew by Mercury in 1974 and 1975. Among the extensive scientific observations planned during the flyby is imaging a large portion of Mercury's surface that was not visible to the Mariner 10 mission. MESSENGER's flyby tomorrow will yield the first spacecraft images ever of these regions of Mercury's surface.
Image acquired on January 12, 2008, 09:06 UTC.
These images are from MESSENGER, a NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study of the innermost planet, Mercury. For information regarding the use of images, see the MESSENGER image use policy.