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MESSENGER Mission News
September 6, 2013
|Data collected during MESSENGER's 19th through 24th month in orbit around Mercury were released to the public today by the Planetary Data System (PDS), an organization that archives and distributes all of NASA's planetary mission data. With this release, data are now available to the public through the fourth full Mercury solar day of MESSENGER orbital operations.
This 10th delivery to PDS makes available the formatted raw and calibrated data for MESSENGER's science instruments and the radio science investigation. SPICE data from MESSENGER's 2004 launch through the period of this release are also included.
The availability of the new data comes on the heels of some highly anticipated upgrades to the MESSENGER mission's ACT-REACT-QuickMap software developed by Applied Coherent Technology Corporation. The software package allows users to examine global mosaics of Mercury constructed with high-resolution images from this and previous PDS deliveries. The Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) northern-hemisphere topographic map is now available at a higher resolution.
"Topography is important for understanding the volcanic and tectonic history of Mercury and, owing to fortunate geometry, the polar thermal environment and the emplacement of volatile ices as well," explains MLA Instrument Scientist Gregory Neumann, of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. "We have sharpened the picture of the north polar region considerably. The laser can corroborate the exciting results of the imaging campaign and see into the shadows. But we are still wrestling with the shape of Mercury, which is unusual among slowly rotating terrestrial bodies. These updates to the slowly accumulating topographic map will lead to further collaborations with other instrument teams and should reveal new surprises."
QuickMap now also provides a complete image mosaic, new elevation profiling and interactive three-dimensional viewing tools, and tools for viewing spectra from the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) and the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS).
"QuickMap's spectra retriever now allows users to find on the surface an individual footprint of the MASCS instrument," explains MASCS Instrument Scientist Noam Izenberg of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "Each of these footprints varies in size and shape and contains an individual spectrum of the light reflected off the surface at wavelengths from 300 to 1,450 nanometers. The differences between these spectra from one place to another help to reveal differences in the composition of surface material on Mercury."
Brian Grigsby, the coordinator of MESSENGER's Student Planetary Investigator Program and science department chair at Shasta High School in Redding, California, says that the enhancements to QuickMap will allow students to gain a much deeper understanding of the surface morphology, geology, and planetary evolution of Mercury and to explore STEM-related career fields than they would not normally be able to do through conventional methods.
"The enhancements also can help the public acquire a broader view of surface features on Mercury from the topography data (to examine craters, hills, and valleys), and even 'colorized' views that can enhance certain features that aren't usually evident from grey-scale views of the surface," Grigsby says. "The new data will provide a much richer experience not only for students studying Mercury, but for the public as well."
QuickMap can be accessed via links on the MESSENGER websites at http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/ and http://www.nasa.gov/messenger. The MDIS mosaics can be downloaded from http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/the_mission/mosaics.html/.
The data for this release are available online at http://pds.nasa.gov/subscription_service/SS-20130906.html, and all of the MESSENGER data archived at the PDS are available at http://pds.nasa.gov. The team will deliver the next mission data set to PDS in March 2014.
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and entered orbit about Mercury on March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011 UTC), to begin a yearlong study of its target planet. MESSENGER's extended mission began on March 18, 2012, and ended one year later. A proposed second extended mission is currently under evaluation by NASA. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, the Director of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.
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