The average distance between Mercury and Earth is about 155 million kilometers (97 million miles). MESSENGER, a durable, never-complaining robotic explorer, works 24 hours per day to bridge this great expanse for us. The image above is one of the highest-resolution ("closest") views of Mercury's surface that has ever been captured. It shows an area of complicated geology where the rims of two impact craters intersect. We can see the floor of a smaller crater in the upper part of the image, and the steep walls and terraces of a larger crater in the lower part of the image.
This image was acquired as a high-resolution targeted observation. Targeted observations are images of a small area on Mercury's surface at resolutions much higher than the 250-meter/pixel (820 feet/pixel) morphology base map or the 1-kilometer/pixel (0.6 miles/pixel) color base map. It is not possible to cover all of Mercury's surface at this high resolution during MESSENGER's one-year mission, but several areas of high scientific interest are generally imaged in this mode each week.
Date acquired: April 30, 2012
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 244286143
Image ID: 1738312
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 64.90°
Center Longitude: 254.8° E
Resolution: 8 meters/pixel
Scale: The distance from the top of the image to the bottom is about 12 km (7.5 mi.).
Incidence Angle: 69.6°
Emission Angle: 21.9°
Phase Angle: 91.6°
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.