This image is remarkable for several reasons. First, it was obtained on the first day that the MESSENGER Wide-Angle Camera was operated following the spacecraft's entry into orbit around Mercury. Second, it shows a portion of the surface that has never before been seen by spacecraft (neither by Mariner 10 nor MESSENGER during any of its three flybys). The area of the surface in the image is northeast of Hokusai, a prominent rayed impact crater that was detected in Earth-based radar images before it was imaged by MESSENGER during the second flyby. This image was binned on the spacecraft from its original 1024 x 1024 pixel size to 256 x 256. This type of image compression helps to reduce the amount of data that must be downlinked across interplanetary space from MESSENGER to the Deep Space Network on Earth. The image here has been placed into a map projection with north to the top.
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): 209895604
Image ID: 65304
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
Center Latitude: 64.5°
Center Longitude: 35.6° E
Resolution: 576 meters/pixel
Scale: The horizontal width of the scene is about 200 kilometers (125 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.