With the commissioning phase completed, the spacecraft and instruments have been checked out and are ready to enter the primary science phase of the mission. Over the next year, MESSENGER's suite of scientific instruments will gather unprecedented data about the Solar System's innermost planet to unravel Mercury's mysteries.
During this period, the MDIS team will be posting a new image each workday to this spot on the website. Check back often to see the latest images from the first orbital mission to Mercury!
This image was captured during the first science orbit of the mission. The crater crossing the top center of the image is Li Ch'ing-Chao. Li Ch'ing-Chao is located in Mercury's south polar region, near Boccaccio and Camoes.
This image was acquired as part of MDIS's high-resolution surface morphology base map. The surface morphology base map will cover more than 90% of Mercury's surface with an average resolution of 250 meters/pixel (0.16 miles/pixel or 820 feet/pixel). Images acquired for the surface morphology base map typically have off-vertical Sun angles (i.e., high incidence angles) and visible shadows so as to reveal clearly the topographic form of geologic features.
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 05, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 210472807
Image ID: 91928
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: -80.8°
Center Longitude: 298.3° E
Resolution: 310 meters/pixel
Scale: Li Ch'ing-Chao has a diameter of 69 kilometers (43 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.