One Month Ago...
14 Feb 2008
(Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)
One month ago, on January 14, 2008, MESSENGER became the first spacecraft in over three decades to visit Mercury, snapping images of a large portion of the planet's surface previously unseen by spacecraft. As the spacecraft continues on its journey, the science team continues to study the 1,213 images returned from the mission's historic first flyby. The probe's trajectory will bring it to a second Mercury flyby on October 6, 2008.
MESSENGER's Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) captured this image during the flyby one month ago. The Sun is illuminating this region at a low angle, accentuating the modest ridges and other low topography on these nearly flat plains. Low ridges trend from the top-center of the image to the left edge (white arrows). The ghostly remains of craters are visible, filled to their rims by what may have been volcanic lavas (red arrows).
The faint remnant of an inner ring within the large crater in the bottom half of this picture can be seen (blue arrow); the area interior to this ring was also flooded, possibly by lava, nearly to the point of disappearance. Clusters of secondary craters on the floor of the large crater and elsewhere (yellow arrows) formed when clumps of material were ejected from large impacts beyond the view of this image, which is about 350 kilometers (220 miles) across.
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.