Menu
NASA: never-before-seen Mercury images

NASA: never-before-seen Mercury images

NASA's Messenger spacecraft sent back images of Mercury Tuesday morning, giving scientists information about never-before-seen areas of the planet that's closest to the sun.

One of the first images to come back from the spacecraft shows the Kuiper crater, which was first identified during the Mariner 10 mission in the 1970s, according to NASA. That same image also shows what NASA is calling a large pattern of rays that extend from the northern pole of Mercury south past the Kuiper crater.

Early Monday morning, Messenger raced past Mercury and snapped hundreds of pictures. NASA announced Monday that the spacecraft, armed with an array of six analysis instruments, flew just 200 kilometres above the planet's cratered surface at 4:40 a.m. Eastern Time.

Monday was the second of three Messenger passes over Mercury. It made its first flyby in January.

While Messenger was taking photos and collecting other data from the planet, it used Mercury's gravity to give it a "critical" assist to keep the probe on course. NASA scientists hope to move the spacecraft into position to actually begin orbiting Mercury in March 2011.

NASA hopes that Messenger becomes the first spacecraft to orbit the planet, which is only 58 million kilometers from the sun. In comparison, the Earth is 149,600,000 kilometers from the sun.

Part of Messenger's mission is to help scientists figure out whether there is ice hidden on the poles of Mercury. Finding ice there would be a major discovery, since the planet is so close to the sun, its surface is 11 times brighter than Earth's. NASA noted in online documents that while Mercury's surface temperatures can reach about 840 degrees Fahrenheit, deep craters near its poles are in the shade, and there the temperature can plummet to minus 350 F.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags NASAphoenix mars landermessenger space craftinternational newsmercuryorbiting Mercury

Featured

Slideshows

Channel celebrates as HP marks 50 years in NZ

Channel celebrates as HP marks 50 years in NZ

HP marked 50 years in New Zealand at an event in the vendor's Auckland's headquarters last night, with a host of key channel figures coming along to celebrate. Photos by HP.

Channel celebrates as HP marks 50 years in NZ
EDGE 2017 - Icebreaker Sessions round 2

EDGE 2017 - Icebreaker Sessions round 2

EDGE guests experience the value of networking at the second round of Icebreaker sessions.. Photos by Maria Stefina

EDGE 2017 - Icebreaker Sessions round 2
EDGE 2017 Dinner Under the Stars

EDGE 2017 Dinner Under the Stars

EDGE's Day 2 keynote and breakout sessions were followed by the Dinner Under the Stars. Over 300 people were present to enjoy a seafood feast and lots of excitement at Hamilton Island's Bougainvillea Marquee. Photos by Maria Stefina.

EDGE 2017 Dinner Under the Stars
Show Comments