The discovery of Pantheon Fossae was one of the highlights of MESSENGER's first flyby of Mercury in 2008. The low Sun illumination of this image creates shadows, which accentuate the radiating troughs of this intriguing structure. In May 2008, Pantheon Fossae was officially named, becoming the first fossae (Latin for trenches) named on Mercury. Four years later, over 99.9% of Mercury's surface has been imaged, and Pantheon Fossae is indeed a unique geologic feature on Mercury.
This image was acquired as part of MDIS's high-incidence-angle base map. The high-incidence-angle base map is a major mapping activity in MESSENGER's extended mission and complements the surface morphology base map of MESSENGER's primary mission that was acquired under generally more moderate incidence angles. High incidence angles, achieved when the Sun is near the horizon, result in long shadows that accentuate the small-scale topography of geologic features. The high-incidence-angle base map is being acquired with an average resolution of 200 meters/pixel.
Date acquired: July 16, 2012
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 250969390
Image ID: 2213443
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
Center Latitude: 25.29°
Center Longitude: 158.9° E
Resolution: 163 meters/pixel
Scale: Image is 170 kilometers (106 miles) across
Incidence Angle: 85.4°
Emission Angle: 12.9°
Phase Angle: 72.5°
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.