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. helenecha

    On Mercury, crater is Debussy and small crater is Matabei, right? Thanks for telling.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. john l

    this photo is a fake.

    it is, in fact, a close-up of admiral adama's face.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. Frank

    People of the United States of America and President Obama,
    Save Nasa.Build a replacement Space Shuttle Now! Do NotI, I repeat Do not rely on the Russians to transport our Astronauts to the Space Station.You want a real challenging goal for NASA.Try this one,turn Mercury into a giant solar panel to generate electricity and beam it to earth via transformer satellites. That project would keep NASA busy for the next 100 years.You can name the project after Al Gore!

    March 30, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      People of the World.
      PS: A project like the one I spoke of would create millions of JOBS around the world.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Alan

    maybe they can send the genisis probe to hit mars and make it like earth again then we'd have another planet to occupy

    March 30, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • its true

      Maybe they can stick a probe in your ass and see if your lil brain is functioning properly......ps....I have six pack fluffy lol

      March 30, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. Real01

    Space is SUPER GAY

    March 30, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      sounds like you know personally about gay things then

      March 30, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. George

    I would love to go to the moon and be left there all by myself. The farther away from the earthly liberals the better.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • its true

      I agree....I'm sick of liberals and and whale killers

      March 30, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. ChulkChes

    Amazing how saturated with meterorite impacts it is all over its surface. What has been learned most obvious with this search of the planets in this solar system, is that earth is the only viable place to live. There has to be global solutions.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. steve snyder 15864388689 text me:)

    This is so stupid i couldve bought so many candy bars with that money:(

    March 30, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. steve snyder 15864388689 text me:)

    text me:)

    March 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. RDaniels

    Why does NASA almost always show Black and White?? This is NOT the 1950's anymore. What are they hiding from us????????

    March 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      That's what Mercury looks like. It is pretty much colorless.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. john l

    we must invest in nasa.

    it is a proven fact: you cannot lose money by putting it in uranus.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. you

    who said you had to survive?

    March 30, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    NASA hasn't learned about color photography yet?

    March 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ChulkChes

    Mars is way to small and has no protection from sloar radiation. We need to colonized both Mars and Venus. Ship the CO2 on Venus over to Mars to warm up Mars, then make Mars to food producer source, and make Venus the second Earth.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mark

    why are all the craters circular? does the planet's gravity make all incoming object strike straight down? Never a conical crater from a glancing blow?

    March 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
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