More images released of Mercury, taken by orbiter
March 30th, 2011
04:36 PM ET

More images released of Mercury, taken by orbiter

NASA released on Wednesday more of the first images of Mercury taken by a spacecraft orbiting the planet, including the first color closeups depicting it in all its pock-marked glory.

The images were taken by NASA's Messenger spacecraft, the first mission to orbit the planet closest to the sun, according to Messenger's website. Mercury has been seen up close before in fly-bys, but this mission marks the first complete long view reconnaissance of the planet’s geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment.

The mission also allows NASA and its partner, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, an opportunity to show off Messenger's impressive Mercury Dual Imaging System, which has two cameras: the Narrow Angle Camera and the Wide Angle Camera, NASA said.

The first image acquired by Messenger, which was released Tuesday, was part of an eight-image sequence for which images were acquired through eight of the wide angle camera's 11 filters. A color version of that first imaged terrain, pocked with craters, was obtained through the filters and displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively, NASA said.

Over the next two days, Messenger will acquire more than 1,000 additional 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 Messenger spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after fly-bys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, started its historic orbit around Mercury on March 17.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the Messenger spacecraft and manages the Discovery-class mission for NASA. Messenger is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.

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soundoff (193 Responses)
  1. LargeNCharge

    No word/photos of Jimmy Hoffa, eh ???

    March 31, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. SJB

    Thanks,CNN, for the one black & white foto! Great coverage!

    March 31, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Daniel

    To all possible life on Mercury –


    They're coming for your land and oil!!!!

    March 31, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ghost of Elvis

    100 years from now people will care that this mission happened. That's the whole point.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Qev


      March 31, 2011 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Qev

    No one woke up 150, or so, years ago and thought, "hmm, I think I'll invent 'the light bulb' today". That invention, along with the very means which some of you are using to post criticisms of pure science, here–The Internet–are direct results of pure are all inventions.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. Aj

    I'll volunteer to be the first person to a planet.. Just hit me up, as long as I'm provided with whatever equiptment that NASA thinks I'll survive with/or whatever they want to test, I'll go, no joke, who else can say they either lived on another planet or died on another planet ? NASA I'm serious, e mail me. I'll be more than happy to be a test monkey.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jacob

    Wow, I hope this mission goes well. I love looking at pictures of space and hope to see lots of them.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sourpatch575

    Looks like the Moon to me!

    March 31, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. Christian Soto

    I bet the types of people complaining about money spent on science are the very same people that work for religious not-for-profits (a.k.a every church in America) inundating my mailbox with postage exempt spam mail paid for on the governments dime.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. James Boyd

    jClean ,affordable energy-or bust.Kinda like the way the sun thrusts plasma away from itself at a high speed,..maybe with j just a littttle warping of space and ya just might have yurself something there Junior*

    March 31, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. JustinL

    Ever notice how chat board users use words like "idiot," "moron," and "stupid" so freely? I like intelligent discussion but it's hard when so many people make unqualified assumptions and post them as fact followed by some sort of an insult to another opinion. I'm sure it's a futile request but please respect other ideas and show a little respect.

    March 31, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. Adam

    OMG EVERYONE!!!! if you look closely enough you can see sheen down there with some girls "winning"

    March 31, 2011 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Flanno The Great

    Un Educated people like JUSTINE dont realise that NASA is the only government department that brings return on investment. Because of NASA we can thank them for so many amazing technological feats that have made our lives so much better today. You really need to go back to school and get an education. I dont actually think you have passed year 10. Im so sick of people like you in this world. Human's love to explore. Thats how people found the america's. They went above and beyond the boundary and didnt listen to people like you. People will always be sick and for that we spend most of our money on it, but im sure cutting a tiny bit from the budget to do something as amazing as this and space travel is well worth it.

    March 31, 2011 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. Circles

    HAHAHAHA! Yeah. The previous generations had no life because they had nothing with flashing lights that went "beep". Oh thank you science for bringing us all those machines that go "beep". Where would our life be without them? Yeah, let's look for asteroids that may kill us, since there is absolutely nothing (FUKUSHIMA) already here on the planet that we need to deal with. Ah sarcasm, you old diddy you. NASA has a new slogan- "Leaving your a** behind since 1958."

    March 31, 2011 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rick Blaisdell

    Where are the other pictures? You should post a link at the top of the article soa reader can easily access the other pictures NASA posted.

    March 31, 2011 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
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