November 29, 2012, at a NASA press conference
Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA)
Map of MLA reflectivity showing isolated areas of brighter and darker reflectance in areas of permanent shadow
. Many of the brighter areas detected by MLA (as indicated by the arrows) are in unusually cold regions where surface water ice is predicted
. In some cases, the dark regions are somewhat larger than the areas predicted to have thermally stable water ice.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation
are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury?
section of this website to learn more about the key science questions that the MESSENGER mission is addressing. During the one-year primary mission, MESSENGER acquired 88,746 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is now in a yearlong extended mission, during which plans call for the acquisition of more than 80,000 additional images to support MESSENGER's science goals.
Credit: NASA/UCLA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.