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NASA's First Pictures of Mercury Taken From Orbit

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Mercury
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« on: March 31, 2011, 01:05:20 am »

NASA's First Pictures of Mercury Taken From Orbit




One of the first pictures of Mercury taken by an orbiting NASA spacecraft, MESSENGER
Mercury Rising

Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins/Carnegie

In a historic moment for NASA, the MESSENGER spacecraft has delivered the first pictures ever taken from orbit around the planet Mercury. Among the haul, released Wednesday, is this wide-angle, false-color view of dark impact craters crossed by the bright stripes of material long ago ejected from Hokusai Crater (not pictured).

For decades our solar system's innermost planet had been something of a mystery, since only one mission—Mariner 10—had taken closeup pictures of the tiny world in visible light. During a series of flybys in the 1970s, Mariner 10 captured less than half of Mercury's surface.

But in 2008 the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) craft made its initial approach to the planet, snapping some of the first pictures of regions of Mercury not seen before by human eyes. The craft conducted three flybys of the planet before settling into Mercury's orbit on March 17.

Overall, MESSENGER is expected to return thousands of images during its year-long mission to probe Mercury's secrets. (Find out more about MESSENGER's scientific goals.)

Published March 30, 2011


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/pictures/110330-messenger-mercury-from-orbit-nasa-space-first-pictures-science/?now=2011-03-30-00:01
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Mercury
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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2011, 01:06:17 am »



Mercury's Frozen North?

Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins/Carnegie

Angled sunlight accentuates the craters of Mercury's north pole in a newly released picture from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft. This particular section of the planet had never before been seen by scientists.

Although sunlit surface temperatures on Mercury can reach 800 degrees F (427 degrees C), at the poles Mercury has craters deep enough—that is, shady enough—to be perpetually cold.

Radar observations show that something in a few of those craters is oddly bright. One theory MESSENGER will investigate is whether the craters are filled with water ice—a very unexpected possibility for the planet closest to the sun.

(Related: "Moon Has a Hundred Times More Water Than Thought.")

Published March 30, 2011
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Mercury
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« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2011, 01:07:05 am »



MESSENGER'S First Shot

Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins/Carnegie

A spidery crater named for a French composer features in the very first picture MESSENGER took from orbit around Mercury, taken March 29 and released March 30.

Debussy Crater had been known since before MESSENGER's arrival, thanks to its brilliant appearance in Earth-based radar images of Mercury. But no spacecraft had seen Debussy in visible light until MESSENGER made a flyby on its way into orbit.

The new shot of the 50-mile-wide (80-kilometer-wide) crater is a composite of three out of eight images taken through different light filters. Combining images taken at multiple wavelengths can reveal changes across Mercury's surface, since different minerals reflect light in unique ways. A black-and-white version of this Mercury picture was released on March 29.

Published March 30, 2011
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Mercury
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2011, 01:07:43 am »



Mercury Crater Closeup

Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins/Carnegie

In addition to capturing previously unseen parts of Mercury, NASA's MESSENGER will image some of the planet's better known features—such as Debussy Crater (pictured)—in unprecedented detail.

Moving in an egg-shaped orbit, MESSENGER will pass closest to the planet's north pole, coming a mere 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the surface. Examining the planet's impact craters in detail will help scientists with one of the main goals of the mission: to piece together Mercury's geologic history.

Published March 30, 2011
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Mercury
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2011, 01:08:25 am »



Crescent Mercury

Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins/Carnegie

In Roman mythology, Mercury was the fleet-footed messenger to the gods. But the MESSENGER spacecraft might seem to be anything but speedy, taking six years to reach Mercury.

The NASA spacecraft needed time to take advantage of gravity assists—using the gravitational pull of planets to slingshot itself into the right path for reaching Mercury's orbit. These maneuvers allowed engineers to change the craft's speed and direction without burning fuel.

MESSENGER made three flybys of Mercury as part of this process, collecting data—such as this October 2008 picture of the planet's sunlit crescent—that gave scientists a taste of what's to come from the orbital mission.

Published March 30, 2011
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Volitzer
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2011, 03:12:52 pm »

If the craft was using the Hutchison Effect it would have only taken 10 minutes.
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