Charles LilloComment

First Color Image of Mercury from Orbit

Charles LilloComment

Date acquired: March 29, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Times (MET): 0209877871, 0209877891, 0209877875
Image IDs: 65056, 65057, 65061
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filters: 6,7,9 (433, 749, 996 nanometers wavelength)
Center Latitude: -53.3°
Center Longitude: 13.0° E
Resolution: 2.7 kilometers/pixel
Scale: Debussy has a diameter of 80 kilometers (50 miles)

Of Interest: The first image acquired by MESSENGER from orbit around Mercury was actually part of an eight-image sequence, for which images were acquired through eight of the WAC’s eleven filters. Here we see a color version of that first imaged terrain; in this view the images obtained through the filters with central wavelengths of 1000 nm, 750 nm, and 430 nm are displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively. One of MESSENGER’s measurement objectives is to create an eight-color global base map at a resolution of 1 km/pixel (0.6 miles/pixel) to help understand the variations of composition across Mercury’s surface.

On March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011, UTC), MESSENGER became the first spacecraft ever to orbit the planet Mercury. The mission is currently in its commissioning phase, during which spacecraft and instrument performance are verified through a series of specially designed checkout activities. In the course of the one-year primary mission, the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation will unravel the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the science questions that the MESSENGER mission has set out to answer.

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