May 24, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET):
Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
7 (748 nanometers)
Mercury's diameter is 4880 km (3032 miles).
This image was taken with the Wide Angle Camera (WAC)
and shows part of Mercury's southern hemisphere, taken from the far south, looking north. (The companion image, showing the rest of the southern hemisphere, can be found here
.) Unlike Earth (referred to in the title of Madeleine L'Engle's book A Swiftly Tilting Planet
), Mercury has a very small axial tilt of only about .02 degrees--the smallest in the Solar System. As a result, Mercury has no seasons.
This image was acquired as part of MDIS's limb imaging campaign. Once per week, MDIS captures images of Mercury's limb, with an emphasis on imaging the southern hemisphere limb. These limb images provide information about Mercury's shape and complement measurements of topography made by the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) of Mercury's northern hemisphere.
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, MDIS is scheduled to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER's science goals.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.