MESSENGER Dances by Matisse
23 Jan 2008
(Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)
As MESSENGER approached Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) snapped this image of the crater Matisse. Named for the French artist Henri Matisse, the Matisse crater was imaged during the Mariner 10 mission and is about 210 kilometers (130 miles) in diameter. Matisse crater is in the southern hemisphere and can be seen near the terminator of the planet (the line between the sunlit, day side and the dark, night side) in both the color and single-filter, black-and-white images released previously that show an overview of the entire incoming side of Mercury.
On Mercury, craters are named for people, now deceased, who have made contributions to the humanities, such as artists, musicians, painters, and authors. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) oversees the official process of naming new craters and other new features discovered on bodies throughout the solar system. Scientists studying and mapping unnamed features can suggest names for consideration by the IAU. The 1,213 images taken by MESSENGER during its first flyby encounter with Mercury cover a large region of Mercury's surface previously unseen by spacecraft, revealing many new craters and other features that will need to be named.
Additional information and features from MESSENGER's first flyby of Mercury are online at http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/mer_flyby1.html.
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as principal investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.