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. Halo

    At least you guys didn't kill entire planets' life forms, only to then become the subject of a massive conspiracy.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. David Bowman, U.S.S. Discovery


    March 30, 2011 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. Yepp

    There might be oil on mercury. We need to drill right away!

    March 30, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. Earth

    Mars, we don't care about you. You've been hiding all the aliens and were sick of it. Either let them come to Earth or leave the solar system

    March 30, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Romulas

      Earth will be visited soon enough by us. Leave poor Mars alone . Besides that it is a great hiding place.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tinesia

    Wow we spent how many billions of dollars on this? We have kids going without food, medical, homes, parents with fancy school degrees barely making it flipping burgers part time and this is what we spend our monies on...I could have drew it for u for wonder we are doomed for a civil war...question is IS the american people? Are you tired of being broke? Tired of your rights being striped away from you

    March 30, 2011 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Antimatter

      Your ire is completely misdirected. And I think you owe Mercury an apology for totally buzz killing the pleasant conversation he was having with the other celestial bodies here. The nerve.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Lady Covington

      Horribly uncouth.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. Atom

    Split me and I'll show you power

    March 30, 2011 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  7. David Bowman, U.S.S. Discovery

    It's good to know humanity hasn't lost its soul or its sense of humor. Let's hope we can recover our sense of vision of what's important and why it's wonderful to be alive with hope, wonder, and exploration.

    WE CHOOSE TO GO TO THE MOON - not because it is easy but because it is hard.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Moon

      Wow, maybe I will have my first visitor. All those other post cards were fake.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff

    Dorks all . This is amazing science .many cannot wait for more pics

    March 30, 2011 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. neptune

    has everyone forgot about me? hey neighbor..up Uranus!

    March 30, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. Proxima Centauri

    Can you guys please keep it down over there? I'm 4.2 ly away, I shouldn't be able to hear you this late. Seriously, I don't want to have to call Hale-Bopp to get things under control again.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff

    If you cannot afford kids tin dont have em

    March 30, 2011 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  12. Pandora

    Still got bout a hundred years or so to worry about the likes of you guys, thank Eywa!

    March 30, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Romulas

      Where do you get 100 years ? Have you forgot about Nostradamus and his prediction for December of 2012 ? We will be coming to get ya.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. EmilDrillz

    the moon is crawling with stinking aliens and We need to uprise before these planets do.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. HiroAkita

    Don't tell me they flew a bajillion miles with a B&W camera... lol

    March 30, 2011 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
    • David Bowman, U.S.S. Discovery

      LOL. Hey, we can still dream.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      It is a color camera. That's what Mercury looks like.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  15. Gordon Hall

    Dear Spock,
    We landed on Mercury and the inhabitants tried to brain us!
    Capt. Kirk

    March 30, 2011 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • David Bowman, U.S.S. Discovery

      Sorry, we don't have phasers. Just memory banks.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
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