This is the first image of Mercury taken from orbit with MESSENGER's Narrow Angle Camera (NAC). MESSENGER's camera system, the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), has two cameras: the Narrow Angle Camera and the Wide Angle Camera (WAC). Comparison of this image with MESSENGER's first WAC image of the same region shows the substantial difference between the fields of view of the two cameras. At 1.5°, the field of view of the NAC is seven times smaller than the 10.5° field of view of the WAC.
This image was taken using MDIS's pivot. MDIS is mounted on a pivoting platform and is the only instrument in MESSENGER's payload capable of movement independent of the spacecraft. The other instruments are fixed in place, and most point down the spacecraft's boresight at all times, relying solely on the guidance and control system for pointing. The 90° range of motion of the pivot gives MDIS a much-needed extra degree of freedom, allowing MDIS to image the planet's surface at times when spacecraft geometry would normally prevent it from doing so. The pivot also gives MDIS additional imaging opportunities by allowing it to view more of the surface than that at which the boresight-aligned instruments are pointed at any given time.
On March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011, UTC), MESSENGER became the first spacecraft ever to orbit the planet Mercury. The mission is currently in its commissioning phase, during which spacecraft and instrument performance are verified through a series of specially designed checkout activities. In the course of the one-year primary mission, the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation will unravel the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the science questions that the MESSENGER mission has set out to answer.
Date Acquired: March 29, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 209878668
Image ID: 65064
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: -53°
Center Longitude: 13° E
Resolution: 380 meters/pixel
Scale: This image is 390 kilometers (240 miles) across
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.