First MESSENGER images from Mercury

The first spacecraft to ever orbit the innermost planet Mercury, MESSENGER, has started sending back some beautiful photos, the first of thousands to be taken over the course of the mission. Appearance-wise, Mercury is very similar to our moon, mostly gray and covered in craters, so perhaps not as exciting as the views from some of the other planetary locales in our solar system, but this mission is the first to study Mercury in unprecedented detail from the vantage point of orbit. As the MESSENGER web site notes, Mercury is “the smallest, the densest (after correcting for self-compression), the one with the oldest surface, the one with the largest daily variations in surface temperature, and the least explored.” That’s good enough for me to make it another interesting place to go to.

A few photos are posted below; additional ones are (and will be added) here.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
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