Images from MESSENGER Enable Sky & Telescope to Build the First Complete Globe of the Planet Mercury

Rachmaninoff Crater
The globe comes with labels for more than 400 features, including craters named after famous artists, musicians, painters, and authors. (Photo Credit: Sky & Telescope)
Wednesday, February 05, 2014 

The first complete globe of Mercury, our solar system's mysterious innermost planet, has been pieced together by Sky & Telescope using the latest images taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft.

MESSENGER, short for Mercury, Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging, is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. It followed a path through the inner solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus and three flybys of Mercury and ended in its final orbit circling Mercury in March 2011. Since then, MESSENGER has taken thousands of images of Mercury's surface from different distances and illumination conditions to indicate the many different types of depressions scattering its landscape.

Before this mission, even the largest telescope could not generate a detailed image of Mercury's surface due to its close proximity to the Sun. Now, DTM Staff Scientist and MESSENGER Deputy Principal Investigator, Larry Nittler, works with DTM MESSENGER fellows Christian Klimczak and Shoshana Weider, alongside MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon and the entire NASA MESSENGER team, to study the wealth of data these thousands of images have produced. MESSENGER scientists then provided Sky & Telescope with the underlying base map to create the new globe and accurately label nearly 400 of Mercury's previously undiscovered craters, mountains, valleys, and other features.

5 February 2014