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. Paul http://www.youtube.com/ny007ny

    It looks like the moon kinda. But that is probably because it has no atmosphere to erase the impact marks.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. Planet X

    Don't forget about me planets!...Earth, are you ready for me? I'm going to end you very soon 😉

    March 30, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. uranus

    man! i have to go to the bathroom.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. you plants are epic

    Omg planets are awesome!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. Nibiru

    Everyone! shut the hell up, or i'm gonna destroy you all

    March 30, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. Earth

    Is it all that bad if I have a few friends? I mean Pluto doesn't come around no where near as often as Mercury.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. Nostradamus

    I predicted all of you acting so silly on CNN just after I predicted something else but I forgot what that was.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. The asteroid belt between Mars & Earth

    Next planet to sound off gets a new crater. Orders from the big boss.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. Big Paulie

    It ultimately means nothing. If they see something we aren't meant to see, they'll bury it. Kinda like they did with the Zapruder film for years and years.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. GABRIEL

    Next time, send one of those new cameras that can take pictures in color.
    Have you seen those?
    Amazing.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      It is in color. That's what Mercury looks like.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. clive

    That's one crappy looking planet.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. Priyath

    what's in it for the common people??

    March 30, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. Earth

    My, my Jupiter, is that a big red spot or are you happy to see me?

    March 30, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mars

    Each one of you forgot me! Mars.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. Gravity

    Just here to make sure everyones under control...

    March 30, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
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