MESSENGER Status Report
August 26, 2005

Movie Headlines MESSENGER Earth Flyby Gallery

The pictures from MESSENGER's Aug. 2 flyby of Earth are in - and they are spectacular! The collection includes "natural" color and infrared views of North and South America; a peek at the Galapagos Islands through a break in the clouds; and a movie of the rotating Earth, taken as MESSENGER sped away from its home planet.

The close flyby of the Earth and Moon allowed the MESSENGER spacecraft to give its two cameras, known as the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), a thorough workout. The images were planned to enable scientists to understand fully how the cameras are operating in flight in comparison with test results obtained in the laboratory before launch. Images were taken in full color and at different resolutions, and the cameras passed their tests with flying colors.

Not only are these images useful for carefully calibrating the imaging system in preparation for the spacecraft's Mercury encounters, but they have also shown a unique view of the Earth. Clear skies over much of South America allow features such as the Amazon, the Andes and Lake Titicaca to be discerned, as well as huge swaths of rain forest.

One of the highlights of the returned images is a movie, comprised of hundreds of color images taken over a 24-hour period, showing one full rotation of the Earth.

"We are thrilled with the images from the flyby, which have demonstrated that MDIS is performing exactly as planned," said Louise Prockter, MESSENGER's deputy instrument scientist, who planned the observations. "The movie has brought home to me the contrast between our beautiful ocean-covered, cloud-wreathed Earth and our destination planet Mercury - a world on which lead would melt on the daytime surface near the equator but one on which ice may be stable for eons on the shadowed floors of polar craters. We have much to learn about a planet that, although one of our nearest neighbors in the solar system, differs profoundly from Earth in bulk composition and geologic history. The tests we carried out during the Earth flyby show that our cameras are well up to the task of unlocking many of Mercury's secrets."

Click here for the view the images.