If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then many on the MESSENGER team are now really fond of MDIS images! It has been over two months since the MESSENGER spacecraft returned images of Mercury's surface through routine downlink operations. Shown here is one of the last images sent before the two month gap. The lack of images is due to a very logical explanation: Mercury (and hence the MESSENGER spacecraft) has been on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth, limiting the amount of data that can be downlinked. Generally, MDIS images take up more room than the data from MESSENGER's other instruments, so MDIS images are downlinked last, after all other instrument data are down. Happily, the distance between Mercury and the Earth is now decreasing; check out where both planets are today. Soon, we'll again have new images of Mercury's surface!
This image was acquired as part of MDIS's high-incidence-angle base map. The high-incidence-angle base map 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 was acquired with an average resolution of 200 meters/pixel.
Date acquired: November 20, 2013
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 27234508
Image ID: 5230158
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
Center Latitude: 44.20°
Center Longitude: 223.3° E
Resolution: 150 meters/pixel
Scale: This image is roughly 280 km (170 miles) across
Incidence Angle: 60.6°
Emission Angle: 55.0°
Phase Angle: 30.0°
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. MESSENGER acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015.
For information regarding the use of images, see the MESSENGER image use policy.