Chicago (IL) – NASA’s Messenger spacecraft approached Mercury yesterday and transmitted close-up pictures of the planet that is closest to the sun. The detailed images clearly show the gigantic craters and cliffs as well as a pattern of rays in the northern region of Mercury.
Messenger has been sent on a mission to orbit Mercury and was able to approach the planet as close as 125 miles, NASDA said. The probe returned “hundreds of pictures” and collected “a variety of other data”.
A formerly known object is the bright crater displayed just below the center of the image in this article. Called Kuiper, the crater was first seen on images provided by Mariner during a 1970 mission. The images (see our slideshow for some examples) show striking details as well as newly discovered rays extending from the northern region of the planet.
Messenger is planned to be orbit the innermost planet beginning in March 2011.