MESSENGER's highly eccentric orbit, which passes low over Mercury's north polar region, enables higher-resolution views of Mercury's surface in the north than in the south. Shown here is a subset of this image; the large 100-km diameter crater in the center is located at 72.5° N, 67.4° E and was recently named Stieglitz, for the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Of particular note are the craters hosting radar-bright features at low latitudes, extending southward to 67° N, and the many small craters that host radar-bright deposits. Low-latitude and small craters provide thermally challenging environments for water ice to persist. A thin (few tens of centimeters thick) layer of insulation is likely required to cover and to lower the temperature of these deposits if they are water ice. However, the smallest craters and the lowest-latitude locations may prove a challenge for water ice stability over extended periods of geologic time even with such cover.
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
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 acquired 88,746 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is now in a year-long extended mission, during which plans call for the acquisition of more than 80,000 additional images to support MESSENGER's science goals.
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.