Category Archives: MESSENGER

Goodbye MESSENGER

messengergndtrack

The MESSENGER spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury and ended its mission on Friday 30 April 2015.

Launch Date: Tuesday, 03 August, 2004
Launch Time: 2:15:56.537 a.m. EDT
Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Orbital insertion: March 18, 2011 becoming the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

Spacecraft impact with Mercury: 15:26 EDT, Friday 30 April, 2015 (predicted time)

The image above depicts the predicted impact site on a topographically color-coded map of the Mercury surface. The tallest areas are colored red and are about 3 km / 1.9 miles higher than the blue areas showing low-lying areas for example: crater floors.

There is a new crater on Mercury, MESSENGER crater (not the official name just my thought) is estimated to be 16 meters / 53 feet in diameter as it impacted at 3.91 km/sec / 8,700 miles per hour.

The large, 400-kilometer-diameter (250-mile-diameter), impact basin Shakespeare occupies the bottom left quarter of this image. Shakespeare is filled with smooth plains material, likely due to extensive lava flooding the basin in the past. As of 24 hours before the impact, the current best estimates predict that the spacecraft will strike a ridge slightly to the northeast of Shakespeare. – NASA

Click here to see the elevation profile provided by NASA

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

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Days Are Numbered

messenger1dayleft

The days are numbered for the MESSENGER spacecraft and that number is 1. In one more day the MESSENGER spacecraft now out of fuel even out of helium that gas used to pressurize the fuel tanks is out.

Gravity wins again. MESSENGER will impact the surface of Mercury tomorrow. In the mean time data will still be taken. Over 500 images will be transmitted back home and believe it or not more than a thousand more images are on the recorder waiting in the queue. They will never be seen. As NASA says it is better to collect more data than can be transmitted than end the mission having been able to possibly have done more!

This image is about 7 km / 4.3 miles across with a resolution of 6.7 meters per pixel.

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

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Last Days For MESSENGER

mercury1_1

This week will be the last for the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around the planet Mercury.

The image above comes just before the final orbital correction maneuver of the mission and is one of the highest resolution images yet returned from Mercury at 1.1 meters/pixel. The entire image is only 560 meters / 1837 feet across.

That correction came as scheduled on 24 April 2015. The maneuver consumed no fuel by the sounds, there was none left, what was expelled was helium used to pressurize the fuel. Mission managers had things perfectly figured, the boost was just enough to extend the flight until the scheduled date of 30 April.

Now, gravity will have its way and gravity always wins in the end. On 30 April the spececraft will impact the surface of Mercury – hard. At impact MESSENGER will be traveling 3.91 km/sec / 8,750 mph and it is expected to create a crater 16 meters / 52 feet in diameter.

There has been no word on how the naming of this new crater will be handled. We won’t get to see the crater until possibly 2024 when the ESA/JAXA BepiColumbo mission arrives after being launched in 2017.

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

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Mickiewicz Crater

messengersecondaries

This picture of Mickiewicz crater on the planet Mercury from the MESSENGER spacecraft. will be one of the last from the spacecraft as it spirals in towards the planet surface.

This particular image was acquired on 21 April 2015 with the Narrow Angle Camera. The image scale is only 5 km / 3 miles across and the resolution is 5 meters/pixel and every day the resolution is increasing as the spacecraft’s altitude decreases.

The impact is very close. After a successful Orbit Correction Maneuver planned for tomorrow (24 April 2015) the MESSENGER spacecraft will impact the surface of Mercury on 30 April 2015 between 19:25 and 19:30 UTC. That time is just a good estimate, impact time depends on how the correction maneuver goes and could be either a bit earlier or even up to one orbit later (8.3 hours). The time will surely be more certain after the correction maneuver tomorrow.

Impact confirmation will be the inability to establish communication between the spacecraft and Earth-based tracking systems.

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

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Mercury’s North Pole

Temperature map of Mercury's north polar region. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Temperature map of Mercury’s north polar region. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Here’s an orthographic look at the north polar region from the Messenger spacecraft. The view is colored by the maximum biannual surface temperature. The temperature ranges from over 400 K / 127 C / 260 F for the red colors down to 50 K / -223 C /-370 F for the purple colors. Temperatures on Mercury do exceed 350 C / 660 F in places.

The largest crater shown is called Prokofiev and it is centered at 85.77 degrees latitude. The interior of the purple colored craters are easily cold enough for water ice to be stable – hard to imagine but true.

There is big news coming in the Messenger mission. The spacecraft is orbiting closer and closer to the surface of the planet being boosted by thrusters when necessary. One orbit brought Messenger to within 11.6 km / 7.2 miles of the surface of Mercury. The Thrusters increased the speed of the spacecraft by 3.07 meters per second or 6.87 miles per hour and increased the minimum close-approach altitude of 34 km / 21.4 miles.

The problem is the propellant is about gone and this means the Messenger spacecraft will end its mission by crashing into the surface of Mercury. There is another thruster maneuver on 02 April, this will probably be the last such event. Messenger is expected to impact the surface of Mercury later in April, May at the latest.

Europe will visit the inner-most planet with the launch of BepiColumbo in 2016 and a trip of 7 years.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Name Those Craters

One of the craters on Mercury needing a name. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
One of the craters on Mercury needing a name. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The image above is one of FIVE craters on Mercury needing a name. The MESSENGER mission team is seeking suggestions from the public – you and me!

The contest runs until 15 January 2015.

There are rules though, not just any name will do:

Impact craters are named in honor of people who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to the Arts and Humanities (visual artists, writers, poets, dancers, architects, musicians, composers and so on). The person must have been recognized as an art-historically significant figure for more than 50 years and must have been dead for at least three years. We are particularly interested in submissions that honor people from nations and cultural groups that are under-represented amongst the currently-named craters.

Be sure to read the rules section carefully and good luck!

MESSENGER Crater Naming Contest website.

About the image above from MESSENGER:

his image was acquired as part of MDIS’s high-incidence-angle base map. The high-incidence-angle base map complements the surface morphology base map of MESSENGER’s primary mission that was acquired under generally more moderate incidence angles. High incidence angles, achieved when the Sun is near the horizon, result in long shadows that accentuate the small-scale topography of geologic features. The high-incidence-angle base map was acquired with an average resolution of 200 meters/pixel.
Continue reading

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

A View of Home

How about a view of US from Mercury?  Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
How about a view of US from Mercury? Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

This image is the Earth and Moon as seen from the planet Mercury! The MESSENGER spacecraft took a series of images of the Earth – Moon system on 08 Oct and if you click the image you will see another image beside this one showing the moon during the lunar eclipse!

A bit anticlimactic? You need to watch the animation. Pretty amazing!

From NASA:

MESSENGER was 107 million kilometers (66 million miles) from the Earth at the time of the lunar eclipse. The Earth is about 5 pixels across and the Moon is just over 1 pixel across in the field of view of the NAC, with about 40 pixels distance between them. The images are zoomed by a factor of two and the Moon’s brightness has been increased by a factor of about 25 to show its disappearance more clearly.

Date acquired: October 8, 2014
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

A Bright Crater

A bright crater on Mercury.  Image: Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
A bright crater on Mercury. Image: Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The MESSENGER spacecraft shows us a relatively young crater on the planet Mercury. We can infer it is “young” by evidenced by the bright white rays which
are made from soils exposed by the impact.

The crater in the center of the white imapact zone and the one beside it are rather small. The larger crater to the right, it’s soil matches the surrounding terrain, is about 16 km / 10 miles across.

The image was taken by MESSENGER’s Wide Angle Camera and is part of a program to aquire high resolution images in 11-colors.

The MESSENGER website.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Mercury Crater Detail

A crater on the planet Mercury taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft.  Image Credit:NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
A crater on the planet Mercury taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft. Image Credit:NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around the planet Mercury has been lowering its altitude slowly and as it gets closer to the surface of the planet it stands to reason the pictures should show more detail.

Judging from this image that is exactly what is happening. As MESSENGER enters its last year, the observations will become much more detailed. On 30 April the spacecraft altitide was 199 km (127 miles) and MESSENGER is supposed to get even lower, by about half. There is a orbit-correction manuever set for 17 June.

Those white spots along the crater rim are not washed out areas, they are hallows, depressions with bright centers. Apparently they only occur or are only noticed to occur on the sunlit areas.

Here’s the MESSENGER caption for the image:

Continue reading

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

3,000 for MESSENGER

The peak-ring basin Scarlatti as seen from MESSENGER on 18 April 2014.  Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
The peak-ring basin Scarlatti as seen from MESSENGER on 18 April 2014. Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

On 20 April 2014 the MESSENGER spacecraft completed 3,000 orbits of the planet Mercury and is about to get closer to the planet than ever before at an altitude of 199 km / 124 miles.

From the MESSENGER website:

“We are cutting through Mercury’s magnetic field in a different geometry, and that has shed new light on the energetic electron population,” said MESSENGER Project Scientist Ralph McNutt, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. “In addition, we are now spending more time closer to the planet in general — and that has, in turn, increased the opportunities for all of the remote sensing instruments to make higher-resolution observations of the planet.”

 

MESSENGER has been completing three orbits of Mercury every day since April 2012, when two orbit-correction maneuvers reduced its orbital period about Mercury from 12 hours to 8 hours. The shorter orbit has allowed the science team to explore new questions about Mercury’s composition, geological evolution, and environment that were raised by discoveries made during the first year of orbital operations.

APL’s Carolyn Ernst, the deputy instrument scientist for the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA), said the change from a 12- to an 8-hour orbit provided her team with 50% more altimetry tracks. “MLA coverage takes a long time to build up, and because of the small footprint of the laser, a lot of coverage is needed to obtain good spatial resolution. The more data we acquire, the better we resolve the topography of the planet,” she said. “The 8-hour orbit has also allowed us to make more MLA reflectivity measurements, which have provided critical clues for characterizing Mercury’s radar-bright deposits at high northern latitudes.”

Continue reading

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather