In addition to the three global base maps, there is an MDIS imaging campaign to monitor the south polar region of Mercury. By imaging the south polar region once every four MESSENGER orbits (once every two Earth days) as illumination conditions change, features that were in shadow on earlier orbits can be discerned and any permanently shadowed areas can be identified over one Mercury solar day. Identifying areas of permanent shadow are of interest to understand the unusual materials at Mercury's poles and whether these highly radar-reflective materials consist of water ice. During MESSENGER's one-year mission, the WAC is used to monitor the polar region south of 70°S at 1.5 km/pixel for the first Mercury solar day. On the second Mercury solar day, the NAC will be used for imaging the polar region south of 85°S at 300 m/pixel. An example WAC image acquired as part of MDIS's south polar monitoring campaign is shown here.
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 13, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 211163075
Image ID: 124747
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
Center Latitude: -85.27°
Center Longitude: 327.2° E
Resolution: 1500 meters/pixel
Scale: The diameter of this polar projection is 1,700 kilometers (1,060 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.