NASA Releases First Orbit Images of Mercury

Released 3-29-2011

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/CIW

New Photos of Mercury From NASA’s Messenger Probe

SPACE.com Staff
Date: 28 March 2011 Time: 02:52 PM ET

On March 29, 2011, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft became the first probe ever to orbit the moon. This image is the first color photo Mercury, showing the planet’s southern polar region, acquired by Messenger from its new orbit. The Messenger probe arrived in orbit around Mercury on March 17 after three previous flybys of the planet.

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

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/CIW – 2008

 

Ice on Mercury? NASA Probe May Solve That Mystery and Others

Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 30 March 2011 Time: 05:26 PM ET

A NASA spacecraft now circling Mercury is set to tackle some big mysteries of the scorched, tiny world – including whether or not water ice lurks in its shadowy craters.

NASA’s Messenger probe became the first spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury when it arrived at the planet on March 17. While the spacecraft won’t officially start its yearlong science mission until April 4, the observations it’s already made hint at many discoveries to come, researchers said.

“We’re really seeing Mercury now with new eyes,” Messenger principal investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, told reporters today (March 30). “As a result, an entire global perspective is unfolding, and will continue to unfold over the next few months.” [New Photos of Mercury From Messenger]

The search for water ice on the blisteringly hot planet is one of the mission’s driving motivations. Though Mercury’s surface temperatures can top 842 degrees Fahrenheit (450 degrees Celsius), ice may survive on the floors of permanently shadowed polar craters.

And about 20 years ago, radar data first picked up intriguing evidence of reflective materials at Mercury’s poles that might just be water ice, researchers said.

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I thought this to be an important piece of history to put in the archives.

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