First image of Mercury from orbit released
March 29th, 2011
10:57 PM ET

First image of Mercury from orbit released

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.

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soundoff (582 Responses)
  1. drap

    Please tell me Mercury..will not meet Plutos demise... .

    March 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lone

      What is so wrong with sub-planets, dwarf planets, or planetoids, . Anyways, Pluto is half the size of Mercury and at the very heart of it all.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Mercury Typo

      It already has. I'm PI$$ED at who ever file named the MERCURY JPEG photo. When you left-click to copy it, the file name is ... t1larg.messenger.venus.nasa.jpg ... This is MY day in the SUN not that fluzzy Venus...

      March 30, 2011 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Sailor Mercury

      Oh no! Don't take pictures of me!

      March 30, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Black Hole

      Silly planets, you're nothing but delicious donut holes to me. Keep the eye-candy flowing - God bless NASA and HD!

      March 30, 2011 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Cosmic Guru

      Find the sounds of the solar system at TranscendentalTones! Beautiful artistic impressions based on the german astrologer Johannes Keppler's observations dating from the 17th century.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. Neptune

    Pluto has been depressed since the scientists in earth took away his catagory as a planet. Poor guy.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pluto

    It's allright Mercury..even if you suffer the same fate as me..You can still orbit the SUN... .

    March 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mercury

      Don't you orbit the sun, too?

      March 30, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Mickey

      Pluto! There you are! BAD DOG

      March 30, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Waaaaaa? Well what aaaaammm I?

      March 30, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mercury

    Geesh, I thought I'd be stuck in one place for billions of years. Thanks for the heads up Pluto.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy

    Cool. Just...cool.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Uranus

    Everybody always forgets about me. Except for the jokes. Makes me want to fly out of orbit sometimes!

    March 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr.Cranky

      Heh, but where would all the Klingons float around, then?

      March 30, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Got a bad case of asteroids, huh?

      March 30, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jupitor

    And don't any of you guys worry either. If any of them astroroids or meteors come your way, ill take the hit for you. Just like I did for Earth years ago.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moon

      Hey, I've taken a few, too!

      March 30, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      About that... it is so amazing that Jupiters size and position are perfect to shield earth from the majority of asteroids and similar.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Earth

      Me too! Remember those pesky dinosaurs?

      March 30, 2011 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Venus

    Thanks, big guy. Are we aligning soon? I miss you.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mars

    Leave Venus alone, Jupiter! I'm seeing red already...

    March 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jupitor

    Yep, Venus just let me say bye to my girlfriend Saturn.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Wings

    Venus and Mars are all right tonight...

    March 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Venus

    Saturn is such a show-off with all the rings she wears...

    March 29, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ATLApplePie

      Like.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. Saturn

    Can I help it if I'm blessed?

    March 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jupiter

    Anybody want to see my red spot?

    March 29, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Obelisk

    Leave Europa alone.... All other planets are yours to explore...

    March 29, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Star Shooter

      There is a huge underwater ocean below the crust of Europa. Good possibility of amphibious creatures living there. That is why the Earth whales, dolphins, etc. sing, squeak, chirp to get their attention.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
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