MESSENGER's third flyby of Mercury was an opportunity for a type of science observation not possible during the mission's two previous encounters with the Solar System's innermost planet: targeted observations. Because the majority of the surface that MESSENGER was to view during Mercury flyby 3 had been seen during the previous flybys using the spacecraft's full suite of highly capable science instruments, the MESSENGER team was able to identify features on Mercury's surface of high interest and to plan to observe these areas in unprecedented detail during Mercury flyby 3. Unfortunately, an unexpected signal loss prior to closest approach hampered those plans. Read the Mission News story for more details. The MESSENGER spacecraft is in normal operating mode and on course to orbit Mercury in 2011. Though the targeted observations detailed below were not obtained during Mercury flyby 3, once in orbit, MESSENGER will see these interesting geologic features and many more in exquisite detail.
This enhanced-color image shows the regions targeted for MASCS and MDIS observations during Mercury flyby 3, labeled with different letters. The table below provides information about each target. The red path traces the planned movement of the field of view of the MASCS instrument across the surface. The white dotted lines indicate the degree of rotation of the viewing geometry away from “straight down” at 0°.
||An unnamed crater with unusual bright material on its floor.
||An unnamed crater with a set of young ejecta rays that are light blue in the enhanced-color view.
|C (1 & 2)
||Crater Lermontov. The bright yellowish color in the enhanced-color image and the irregularly shaped depressions on its floor may be evidence of past explosive volcanic activity.
||North of crater Homer. An area with an interesting mix of both light blue ejecta and bright orange materials.
||Near crater Titian. Enhanced-color images show a region of comparatively deep blue material that is dark and of a different composition than the majority of Mercury's surface.
|F (1 & 2)
||Common plains material. This target resembles a type of material that covers much of Mercury.
||An unnamed crater with an intriguing bright yellow-orange color in enhanced-color views.
||Ray material from a spectacular rayed crater in Mercury's north. The ray material appears bright blue in enhanced color.
||Crater Hemingway. Enhanced-color images show the crater has an orange interior and a highly contrasting dark blue central peak.