The rays apparent in this spectacular limb image of Mercury come from Debussy, the sharp crater near the terminator. This dominant crater on Mercury was also a part of MESSENGER's historic image of Mercury- the first image ever to be taken from a spacecraft in orbit about this planet. Readers may also notice a streak in the blackness of space in the top right corner of the image. This artifact was produced by a cosmic ray hitting the camera's CCD detector while the image was being collected.
This image was acquired as part of MDIS's limb imaging campaign. Once per week, MDIS captures images of Mercury's limb, with an emphasis on imaging the southern hemisphere limb. These limb images provide information about Mercury's shape and complement measurements of topography made by the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) of Mercury's northern hemisphere.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the key science questions that the MESSENGER mission is addressing. During the one-year primary mission, MDIS is scheduled to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER's science goals.
Date acquired: July 26, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 220137668
Image ID: 550504
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
Center Latitude: -27.90°
Center Longitude: 29.17° E
Resolution: 2783 meters/pixel
Scale: Mercury's radius is approximately 2440 km (1516 miles)
Incidence Angle: 65.1°
Emission Angle: 48.2°
Phase Angle: 95.3°
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.