First Image from Mercury Orbit!

MESSENGER's first image from Mercury orbit; the bright Debussy crater visible at upper right.

It’s been over 11 days since MESSENGER established orbit around the planet Mercury, and we now have THE first image from orbit!

MESSENGER's first image target area

The image above was obtained this morning, March 29 at 5:20am EDT as MESSENGER was above Mercury’s south pole – a portion of which has never previously been imaged by spacecraft.

Click here for the super-size version!

(Added 3/30: See the image above in COLOR here!)

Over the following six hours MESSENGER acquired 364 images in total before beginning to downlink the data to Earth.

The year-long primary science phase of the mission will begin on April 4, acquiring more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER’s science goals.

Over the next three days, MESSENGER will acquire 1185 additional images of Mercury’s surface.

MESSENGER is the first spacecraft ever to orbit the first planet from the Sun.

More on the MESSENGER mission can be found here.

“The orbital exploration of the Solar System’s innermost planet has begun.”

– Sean Solomon, MESSENGER Principal Investigator

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington