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. Earth

    Can we hold up on the conversation? The humans may get a whiff of it.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. drap

    Dear Uranus,unfortunately due the MASS amount of jokes directed at you over the years...The planet authority committee has changed your name from Uranus to Urectum... .

    March 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The Moon

    Jupiter must be a little tipsy tonight. Can't even spell his ( or her ) own name right.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pluto

    Haha moon, your not a planet either LOSER.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Y V Cannis Majoris

    Sun, please control your group.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blake

      Best one of this amusing bunch, got a good chuckle from me!

      March 30, 2011 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Sun

    Ok, let's keep revolving around me in our little solar system. All of you except well, Pluto. Sorry guy, you're out.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mickey Mouse

    Hey Pluto,I dont want to say I told you so.. but I did tell you so.You think your the center of the galaxy then you get an agent..then Bam!! you get exiled... .

    March 30, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Minnie Mouse

      Mickey, there u go again conversating with Pluto. U talk to him in the house, outside w/your boy Donald, now on the NET! When will u talk to me,Mickey....When?

      March 30, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Goofy

      ah yuk! gorsh Mickey!

      March 30, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |


    March 30, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Col. Bat Guano

    Earth is a republican.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. Obelisk

    @Minnie: Mickey is gay. You didn't think the high pitched voice was a sign? Time to move on.

    March 30, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. 2060 Chiron

    You planetary bodies are weird. I'm glad I only have to put up with you once every 50 years.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. unreal

    And how much did they spend to send a ***BLACK AND WHITE*** camera there? unbelievable!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Lone

      They probably saved a few dollars when taking a picture of something that doesn't have much of any color to begin with. It is in fact a largely colorless planet. And so far as money goes, US Def budget – over $650b / NASA – $17b. The Def dept has spent more on contractor fail to delivers than this probe.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • MagicB

      Hmm, No atmosphere to diffuse light and rock doesn't have much color. What colors were you expecting to see? I would imagine the less colors per pixel allow them to optimize the photo to a minimal size which makes for quicker transfer.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Where does it say that it is a black and white camera? That's what Mercury looks like.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
  13. NASA

    it didn't cost us as much as a week long bombing campaign in Libya, and I'd say this picture is more worthwhile

    March 30, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • moammar gadhafi

      I couldn't agree more !

      March 30, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. gabriel88

    What losers. Mercury will be the next planet earth as it moves away from the sun. I believe this highly.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Jupiter

      It is color.. that is the regolith in all it's gray glory.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. Aroo

    Black & white? What is this the 1960s? How 'bout some color images people?

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