Humans have now had three views of the bright area shown near the top center of this image. The first view was as a mere tiny bright spot seen in telescopic images of Mercury obtained from Earth by astronomers Ronald Dantowitz, Scott Teare, and Marek Kozubal. The second view was obtained by the MESSENGER Narrow Angle Camera during the spacecraft's second Mercury flyby on October 6, 2008. At that time, the bright feature was just on the planet's limb (edge) as seen from MESSENGER. Now MESSENGER has provided a new, even better view. The geometry of MESSENGER's third Mercury flyby allows us to see the feature and its surroundings in greater detail, including the smooth plains in the foreground and the rim of a newly discovered impact basin at lower left. Surprisingly, at the center of the bright halo is an irregular depression, which may have formed through volcanic processes. Color images from MESSENGER's Wide Angle Camera reveal that the irregular depression and bright halo have distinctive color. This area will be of particular interest for further observation during MESSENGER's orbital operations starting in 2011.
Date Acquired: September 29, 2009
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 162744128
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Resolution: 400 meters/pixel (0.25 miles/pixel)
Scale: This image is about 410 kilometers (250 miles) from top to bottom
Spacecraft Altitude: 15,800 kilometers (9800 miles)
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.