NASA released an image of the planet Mercury on Tuesday, the first obtained from a spacecraft orbiting the solar system's innermost planet.
The image is the first of many expected to come from the Messenger probe, the first space mission to orbit the planet closest to the sun. The Messenger spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, started its historic orbit around Mercury on March 17.
The dominant rayed crater in the upper portion of the image is Debussy, according to NASA. The smaller crater, Matabei, with its dark rays, is visible to the west of Debussy. The bottom portion of the full image, which can be seen here, is near Mercury's south pole and includes a region of Mercury's surface not previously seen by spacecraft.
Over the next three days, Messenger will acquire 1,185 more images in support of a phase to review spacecraft and instrument performance. The yearlong primary science phase of the mission will begin on April 4, during which it is expected to acquire more than 75,000 images.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the Messenger spacecraft and manages the Discovery-class mission for NASA. Messenger stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.
The five most popular stories on CNN.com in the past 24 hours, according to NewsPulse.
Eagle ray pins woman in boat: An eagle ray weighing as much as 300 pounds landed on top of a woman on a boat in the Florida Keys last week, throwing her to the deck and pinning her underneath it.
Pilot finds hole in plane's fuselage: FBI investigators were working Tuesday to discover what caused a small hole in the body of a US Airways jet.
Girl, denied access to U.S., will try again: A 4-year-old U.S. citizen who was unable to enter the country this month because of a possible communications mix-up is expected to attempt the journey again on Wednesday, according to her lawyer.
American students a no-show in Acapulco: Folk musician Raymundo Oregon knows Acapulco's seasons and the tourists. He's seen the good times and the bad, and this is definitely a low point for his beloved coastal city.
Explosions in Tripoli, 'carnage' in Misrata: Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi went on the attack Tuesday, pushing opposition fighters back to the outskirts of a key oil town, rebels said.
The Supreme Court's conservative majority didn't appear impressed Tuesday with plaintiffs' arguments that more than 1 million female Wal-Mart workers, past and present, should be able to accuse the retailer of discrimination in one class-action lawsuit, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.
Though a ruling isn't expected until late June, the justices' reactions during oral arguments might portend a defeat for six plaintiffs who want to band with employees from across the country and make their accusations in a single, massive trial, Toobin said.
"I thought it was a very good day in court for Wal-Mart, and I would not be at all surprised if the whole case were thrown out after listening to the justices today,” Toobin said on "CNN Newsroom."
At least 56 people were killed Tuesday and 98 others wounded when a gang of men attacked an Iraqi government building in the northern city of Tikrit. Among those killed in the attack was Sabah al-Bazee, a freelance journalist who worked for a number of news organizations, including CNN. Producers Mohammed Tawfeeq, Yousif Bassil and Jomana Karadsheh wrote the following tribute to Sabah, who turned 30 one week ago:
Sabah al-Bazee was one of the many brave Iraqi journalists whose courage and skills made him one of the best local reporters in the deadliest war for journalists since World War II.
Sabah would always want to joke and make us laugh. Even when you would wait for him to pick up the phone, you would get a recorded joke. He was one of the most outgoing and proactive stringers we had. Most of the time, Sabah would call and give us the news before we’d call him asking about it.
Jomana remembers a trip to a U.S. military base in Tikrit in 2008, where she met up with Sabah. Because this was in his province, Sabah displayed the renowned Iraqi hospitality. After lunch, he grabbed some fruit and put it in Jomana's bag. She did not find it until hours later, when she got back to Baghdad.
While Iraq today is not the Iraq of three or four years ago, it still is a place where hundreds are killed and wounded every month. It is still a place where you can leave your home in the morning and never come back. Just like Sabah did today.
Today, we mourn a colleague and a friend – yet another one.Read the full post on CNN's BackStory blog
Virginia Tech will be fined $55,000 for waiting too long to provide timely warnings about a shooter on the loose during a 2007 rampage that killed 32 people, the U.S. Department of Education said Tuesday.
A report released last year on the incident found the school in violation of The Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to disclose information about crimes on or near their campuses.
The university said it "respectfully disagrees" with the ruling and plans to appeal.
"As we noted before, neither the Department of Education nor the Clery Act defines 'timely.' The university actions on April 16 were well within the standards and practices in effect at that time," the university said in a statement.FULL STORY
A hole in a US Airways jet that landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday was caused by a bullet, two government sources tell CNN.
The sources say a bullet has been recovered inside the Boeing 737-400.
The aircraft had flown to Charlotte from Philadelphia and was being prepped for another flight on Monday when the pilot discovered the hole above a passenger window toward the back of the plane, according to airline officials. The airline pulled the plane from service and called in the FBI.
"We do not believe it's terrorism related," said one of the government sources. "It appears to be a random event. We do not believe the plane was targeted."
One source told CNN that officials believe the bullet was fired in Charlotte after passengers had exited the aircraft.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Nancy Grace's new show on HLN, "Nancy Grace: America's Missing," is dedicated to finding 50 people in 50 days. As part of the effort, which relies heavily on audience participation, CNN.com's news blog This Just In will feature the stories of the missing.
This is the 50th case, and it was shown Friday night on HLN.
Kayla Berg's mother remembers the last time they talked: On the phone, hours before the Wisconsin teenager’s last known sighting in August 2009.
"She had called me earlier that day," said Kayla's mother, Hope Sprenger. "[She] told me that she might possibly be going over by some friends, hanging out. If she did, she would give me a call back later.
"She told me that she loved me. I told her I loved her, too, and we would chat later. And that was the last time we heard from her."
Police say Kayla, 15, of Antigo, Wisconsin, disappeared after getting a ride from her brother’s friend on August 11, 2009.
The news media took note of Monday's anniversary of the nuclear accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island power plant, but a partial meltdown at another U.S. reactor seems to have slipped from the public memory.
Fermi 1, a small nuclear reactor south of Detroit, experienced a loss-of-coolant accident in October 1966.
Fermi 1, owned by a consortium of utilities and industrial giants, went into service on leased Detroit Edison land in 1963. It was a prototype fast breeder reactor, meaning it was designed to create more fuel than it consumed.
There's no theme for today's Gotta Watch videos. We go from the last thing you'd want in the hospital to the first guy you'd want on your team. And we wrap it all up with fashion advice about denim from one of Conan's writers.
Bedbugs bugging hospitals - Bedbugs in your bed? Maybe. But in your hospital bed? Some hospitals in Wisconsin say they're showing up in patients' rooms ... and it's the patients who are bringing them in.
Her location remains unknown days after she burst into a Tripoli hotel that houses foreign journalists, screaming that she had been raped for days by Moammer Gadhafi's brigades. Al-Obeidy was heavily bruised and bleeding, hysterical and crying during the incident on Saturday. Watch the scene. Libyan officials roughly led her out of the hotel after a violent scuffle with journalists who were trying to protect her. She was forced into a car and driven away and has not been seen since. On Tuesday, the men accused of raping al-Obeidy filed counter-charges against her for slander, a Libyan government spokesman told CNN. Watch CNN's Nic Robertson report this development. Al-Obeidy's mother said Monday that her daughter is being held. But the Libyan government claims al-Obeidy was released and is at home with her family. When al-Obeidy was being rushed out of the hotel by Libyan authorities, she shouted to journalists that if they didn't see her again, "then that's it!" CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah, who witnessed the violence at the hotel, said he fears for the woman's safety. When the Libyan authorities told reporters that they would see her again, Abdallah recalled, "We have been told that we'd see people again, but we never do."
The Libyan professor taught economics at the University of Washington but is now in Libya appointed to the opposition's shadow government as finance minister. Tarhouni, 60, returned to the war-torn country a month ago. He had been exiled for the past 35 years. Tarhouni discussed with journalists challenges that the opposition movement faces. "The process was and is very chaotic," he said. His students were stunned by the sudden departure of their instructor, the Seattle Times reports.
The Wal-Mart greeter is the plaintiff whose discrimination claims against Wal-Mart have reached the U.S Supreme Court. Oral arguments begin Tuesday in the case which is the largest class-action employment lawsuit in U.S. history. Dukes and other accuse Wal-Mart of discriminating in pay and promotions based on employees' gender. Dukes worked for Wal-Mart since 1994. She said she was paid significantly less than men with less seniority who were performing similar work, and that she was passed over for several managerial promotions.
President Obama addressed the nation Monday about the United States' involvement in Libya, and he said the goal there is regime change without direct U.S. military force.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized the president's statement and says the use of military force to take the leader out of power shouldn't be taken off the table. He speaks to Christine Romans about Obama's address:
It took him six hours and a lifetime to do it, but French daredevil Alain Robert climbed the world's tallest building Monday evening.
Robert sometimes gets arrested for trespassing while conquering tall buildings, but this time he was an invited guest.
"I'm doing this to show the students there is no edge or borders and to inspire people to break the mold and not limit themselves," Robert told Gulf News. "Part of my message is not only to follow your heart but try to innovate in all things you do."
Libya – Forces loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi blocked the westward advance of rebels, who have been aided by air power provided by the U.S., NATO and their allies. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet in London today with other world leaders to try to strengthen the coalition's efforts.
Syria – Thousands of demonstrators marched in Amman in support of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been the target of protests. Confrontations between anti-government protesters and police have been bloody at times; at least 37 people have been killed since last week, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Security forces flooded the restive cities of Daraa and Latakia on Monday, patrolling the streets, protecting government buildings and in at least one case clashing with protesters, according to witnesses..
Japan – Engineers and workers are carrying out a dangerous balancing act as they try to cool the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor with water, but not so much water that it spills over, presenting an additional hazard. Radioactive isotopes from the damaged reactor are being detected in more places in the United States, though the Environmental Protection Agency says they pose no threat to human health. A Senate committee will hold a hearing today to gather information on the accident in Japan.
Wal-Mart – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a huge sex-discrimination lawsuit brought by female workers against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest retailer. The arguments will not be on the merits of the case, but on whether to allow as many as 1.6 million potential plaintiffs to join a single lawsuit. Billions of dollars and many thousands of career paths are at stake.
Immigration – Emily Ruiz, a 4-year-old U.S. citizen, was denied entry to the United States on March 11 when she returned with her grandfather to Dulles International Airport near Washington after an extended stay in Guatemala. The girl's parents are undocumented workers in New York; her grandfather had an old immigration violation, which prompted border agents to send him and the girl back to Guatemala. Emily will try to enter through New York today, a lawyer for the family says.
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 struck off Japan's main island of Honshu on Tuesday evening near the spot of this month's monster quake, which has killed more than 10,000 people, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.