Images from MESSENGER Enable Sky & Telescope to Build the First Complete Globe of the Planet Mercury
MESSENGER, short for Mercury, Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging, is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. It followed a path through the inner solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus and three flybys of Mercury and ended in its final orbit circling Mercury in March 2011. Since then, MESSENGER has taken thousands of images of Mercury's surface from different distances and illumination conditions to indicate the many different types of depressions scattering its landscape.
Before this mission, even the largest telescope could not generate a detailed image of Mercury's surface due to its close proximity to the Sun. Now, DTM Staff Scientist and MESSENGER Deputy Principal Investigator, Larry Nittler, works with DTM MESSENGER fellows Christian Klimczak and Shoshana Weider, alongside MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon and the entire NASA MESSENGER team, to study the wealth of data these thousands of images have produced. MESSENGER scientists then provided Sky & Telescope with the underlying base map to create the new globe and accurately label nearly 400 of Mercury's previously undiscovered craters, mountains, valleys, and other features.
5 February 2014