More Mercury images arrive

MESSENGER took about 1,200 images during its flyby of Mercury earlier this week. Here’s another nifty one. (Click on the image to see a larger version.) It may be a barren surface, but I find it fascinating to see pictures of another world. They make Mercury seem like a place, instead of some abstract location. By the way, the large crater at the lower right is named “Sholem Aleichem,” the Yiddish author who created the Fiddler on the Roof. The large craters on Mercury are named after authors, artists, and musicians.

Mercury’s “far side” for the first time, takes closeups

The MESSENGER probe captured this image of Mercury yesterday from 27,000 km away, giving us our first view of this previously unseen side of the planet. At the time, the probe was receding from its first flyby approach. [Click on the image to see a larger version.] As MESSENGER passed by, it snapped this image of the “near side” of Mercury, showing the crater Vivaldi on the right. Mariner 10 had imaged this part of Mercury on its pass in 1974. NASA will be releasing more images as MESSENGER sends them for processing.

MESSENGER successfully flies by Mercury

The MESSENGER probe zipped past Mercury yesterday in the first of three flybys needed before it settles into a regular orbit. NASA scientists say the probe survived the encounter, which brought it to within 200 km (124 miles) of the planet’s surface. MESSENGER is the first probe to visit Mercury in 30 years, so planetary scientists are excited to see what new data the new probe returns. MESSENGER (short for “MErcury Surface Space ENvironment GEochemistry and Ranging” — NASA must have a special office to devise names like this one) will investigate Mercury in ways that were not possible when Mariner 10 paid it two flyby visits in 1974. Mariner 10 was able to image only one side of Mercury. Here’s an image of Mercury taken by MESSENGER on its approach Sunday, from 760,000 kilometers away (about twice the distance from the Earth to the Moon). (Click on the image to see a larger version.) After two more flybys this year and next, MESSENGER will settle into a regular orbit in 2011 when it will begin a longterm study of the innermost planet, the first in its history. The peculiar trajectory is a fuel-saving measure, to enable the probe to ...
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