This image, taken with MESSENGER's Wide Angle Camera (WAC), shows Mercury's heavily cratered surface. While Mercury's surface is often compared with that of Earth's Moon, Mercury and the Moon differ significantly in a number of important ways, including core size, presence of a global magnetic field, and surface composition. Mercury is a unique world, not just the Moon moved closer to the Sun!
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: April 14, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 211275265
Image ID: 130616
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 9 (996 nanometers)
Center Latitude: -29.94°
Center Longitude: 244.8° E
Resolution: 2294 meters/pixel
Scale: Beethoven, the large basin in the center of the image just over the terminator, is 630 km across.
Incidence Angle: 75.7°
Emission Angle: 33.0°
Phase Angle: 52.0°
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.