MESSENGER Mission News
January 25, 2008
MESSENGER’s Different Views
During MESSENGER’s flyby of Mercury on January 14, 2008, part of the planned sequence of observations included taking images of the same portion of Mercury’s surface from five different viewing angles. The first view from this sequence was taken just after MESSENGER made its closest approach to Mercury, from a low viewing angle; an image of the first view was released on January 19. The image released here, acquired with the Wide Angle Camera (WAC) on the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), was snapped 13 minutes after MESSENGER’s closest approach with Mercury. The lower two-thirds of this image shows much of the same terrain seen in the first view, but from a much higher viewing angle, as the spacecraft began to pass nearly overhead. At the time of this image, MESSENGER was at a distance of about 3000 kilometers (about 2000 miles) from Mercury.
A comparison of the images taken at different viewing angles provides important information about the properties of the materials that make up Mercury’s surface. In addition, each view was taken through all 11 of the WAC’s narrow-band color filters. The image shown here is from filter 7, which is sensitive to light near the red end of the visible spectrum (750 nm). The MESSENGER team is working to compare these images taken from different perspectives and in different colors to understand surface properties on Mercury. In addition, knowledge of the variation of image properties with viewing angle in this region will permit a more confident comparison of images of other portions of the surface taken at different illumination and viewing angles.
This image is about 1,000 kilometers (about 600 miles) across.
Additional information and features from MESSENGER’s first flyby of Mercury are online at http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/mer_flyby1.html.
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.