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. David Bowman, U.S.S. Discovery

    Children of the Earth. I am troubled by the recent squabbles in this thread.

    Argue less, do more. It's simply wonderful.

    Listen to your planets. They are talking to you.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dave

    We should spend some money to find out about the strange blue rings around Uranus.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    We should spend some money trying to find the Klingons around Uranus.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris Behrens

    I wonder if Richard Hoagland has found any monuments or unnatural structures in the picture yet.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dennis

    Want to feel small today??? Whatch this >>> http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110201.html

    March 30, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ed789

    Just looks like a picture of the moon to me. I have better pictures of the moon using my C8 telescope. See my Moon You Tube Video of the moon with the link below as an example;

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRKIy9Apdi0&w=640&h=360]

    March 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheThinker

      LOL, you're right. Maybe the Mercury probe is in lunar orbit. Anyone remember the episode when the Mars probe landed on Gilligan's Island?

      March 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. zooka

    Crater face!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. its true

    Yes ladys,I'm really not intrested on venus,mars,or mercury.....I'm more fond of uranus......:)

    March 30, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jessie

    for jesus sake why are you people so tightly wound??

    March 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TurkeyBurgers

    Once again America is paving the way forward.
    IS THE REST OF THE WORLD EVEN TRYING?
    Try and catch up and contribute SOMETHING to humanity. Do we have to do EVERYTHING FOR YOU?
    You are welcome world – Sincerely America

    March 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Shady wit tha 380

    I like turtles

    March 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. scotchy

    Whoa! Looks like Nebraska.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. herrsonic

    my cell phone takes a better picture than that

    March 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steve-O

    If you look closely there's a Starbucks there already.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. its true

    What! What!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
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