(2) The wide-angle camera (WAC) is not a typical color camera. It can image in 11 colors, ranging from 430 to 1020 nm wavelength (visible through near-infrared). It does this with a filter wheel: the 11 narrow-band filters (plus one clear filter) are mounted onto a wheel that can be rotated to allow the camera to capture an image through each filter. In this image the 1000 nm, 750 nm, and 430 nm filters are displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively. Several craters appear to have excavated compositionally distinct low-reflectance (brown-blue in this color scheme) material, and the bright rays of Hokusai crater to the north cross the image.
WAC images will be used in coordination with the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS), a hyperspectral instrument that provides reflectance information at many more wavelengths, but only for one spot on the surface at a time.
(3) This WAC image showing a never-before-imaged area of Mercury’s surface was taken from an altitude of 450 km (280 miles) above the planet during the spacecraft’s first orbit with the camera in operation. The area is covered in secondary craters made by an impact outside of the field of view. Some of the secondary craters are oriented in chain-like formations.
This image was taken during MESSENGER’s closest approach to the sunlit portion of the surface during this orbit, just before crossing over the terminator. The oblique illumination by the Sun causes the long shadows and accentuates topography. The highly elliptical orbit of MESSENGER brings the spacecraft down to a periapsis (MESSENGER’s closest approach to Mercury) altitude of 200 km (125 miles) and out to an apoapsis (MESSENGER’s farthest distance from Mercury) altitude of 15,000 km (9300 miles).
(4) Bright rays, consisting of impact ejecta and secondary craters, spread across this NAC image and radiate from Debussy crater, located at the top. The image, acquired yesterday (3/29/11) during the first orbit for which MDIS was imaging, shows just a small portion of Debussy’s large system of rays in greater detail than ever previously seen. Images acquired during MESSENGER’s second Mercury flyby showed that Debussy’s rays extend for hundreds of kilometers across Mercury’s surface. Debussy crater was named in March 2010, in honor of the French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918).
(5) At 5:20 am EDT on Mar. 29, 2011, MESSENGER captured this historic image of Mercury. This image is the first ever obtained from a spacecraft in orbit about the Solar System’s innermost planet. Over the subsequent six hours, MESSENGER acquired an additional 363 images before downlinking some of the data to Earth. The MESSENGER team is currently looking over the newly returned data, which are still continuing to come down.
Date acquired: March 29, 2011
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington