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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Filed under: Space
soundoff (582 Responses)
  1. elvis316

    wow, how valuable. I cannot express how this enriches everyone's lives. Now go investigate and photograph cow patties in Nebraska field and it will have equal value. What a horrendous waste of resources.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      I would venture that YOU have been an equally tremendous waste in resources.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. K C

    I am so sick and tired of people whining about where the money spent to do these missions could have gone instead. Personally I think space discovery is amazing!! One of the few unique things we are able to do. Instead people choose to keep their small brains from understanding and appreciating something that is so much bigger than all of us. ISN'T ANYONE THE LEAST BIT CURIOUS AS TO HOW THE UNIVERSE WAS MADE??
    Have a nice day. 🙂

    March 30, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Ash

      God made the universe. There's no need to look any further.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Klaatu

    I am going home...Earth living sucks...there are Canadians here!!! Klaatu to Mercury...Klaatu to Mercury...Forget about destroying Earth, get me the F outta here!!!!!

    March 30, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. coder

    why is the image file name "Venus" if it is a picture of Mercury?

    March 30, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Star Shooter

      That's what I noticed last night when copying it to HD. It is filed as ... t1larg.messenger.venus.nasa.jpg ...

      March 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bigsk8fan

    what do neocons think about this science stuf? ie just before their eyes glaze over with thoughts of al gore conspiracies!

    March 30, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ash

    Whoopee...basically looks like our moon. How many billions in taxpayer dollars was wasted on THIS? Just reason number 1 billion (or trillion, I might say) the economy is screwed up. Billions on a vain pursuit at best.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. John C

    Science flies you to mercury
    religion flies you into a building.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Ash

      Indeed...that religion being Islam.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. monovirus

    Stupid comments. grow up people!

    March 30, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. Destaphenes

    Hmm...they sure this is mercury?, looks an awful lot like the moon...hmmmm

    March 30, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. Destaphenes

    anybody notice the filename?....

    March 30, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Star Shooter

      I did last night when copying image to HD. File name = t1larg.messenger.venus.nasa.jpg

      March 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. KillaJo

    Wasting my company's money reading these post but they are hilarious!! Some of "you people" are too funny! I can't take any of this seriously. By the way, the photo is nice but boring. Yeah, so what. Mercury is a hot rock but it's next the sun. WOW!!!

    March 30, 2011 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. JDonaldson

    If it wasn't for Obamacare and his stance in Libya, that picture would be clearer.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. SDN

    I see that the field of Applied Moronics has overtaken, indeed, functionally replaced, the once popular fields of science and math. In this blog alone we find an overwhelming representation of the weak force of inanity, disturbed at random intervals by examples of the Awareness Theory.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  14. Zardoz

    Wow! It looks just like Mars!

    March 30, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Planet Bob

      No, it really dosen't.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. EMERSE

    I am so glad we are spending money to take photos of a planet that we knew had no life and the looks just like our moon. Way to goooooooo NASA! Why don't we go the other way and see if we can find life on a planet instead of wasting time on this crap!

    March 30, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
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