Mercury Transit May 09, 2016

I know it has been a while since I have posted anything, but I finally got some images stacked and edited from the May 9, 2016 Mercury Transit. I had an issue getting Registax to work properly under Linux through Wine, but I realized that, for whatever reason, Registax 6 didn’t like me using images (tif, CR2, and jpeg all didn’t work) although Registax 5 is perfectly fine with me using RAW files straight from the camera. Now that I got that figured out, here is one of the best shots from the Mercury Transit which contains about 50 of the best 100 images. Also included is my sketch of the event.

May 09, 2016 Mercury Transit

May 09, 2016 Mercury Transit Sketch

MESSENGER’s First Picture In Orbit

I had recently wrote about MESSENGER entering Mercury’s orbit.This morning at 5:20 am (as I was just crawling out of my bed to go to work) EDT, MESSENGER captured a historic image of Mercury. It’s the first image obtained from the spacecraft that is now in orbit around the solar systems innermost planet. The next 6 hours it had taken an additional 363 images before finally downlinking some of the data to Earth. The MESSENGER team is looking over the newly returned data as I type this, and more images are still being transferred from the space craft to the team.

Tomorrow, March 30th, at 2pm EDT, you can attend the NASA Media Teleconference to view more images from MESSENGER’s first look at Mercury from it’s orbit.

In this picture is the crater Debussy and Matabei. Debussy is in the upper portion of the picture and Matabei is to the west of Debussy. The bottom portion of this picture is towards Mercury’s south pole; it also includes a region of Mercury that has not been previously seen by spacecraft.

This image is of the crater Debussy and is magnified to see it better. This image was taken October 6, 2008 as MESSENGER’s second flyby of Mercury. Debussy has a diameter of 80 kilometers (50 miles) and has prominent rays which extend hundreds of kilomerts across the planet. Debussy didn’t have a name other than “feature A” until March of 2010. It’s extensive system of rays make it a bright feature by both visual and radar wavelengths, and it was identified from early Earth-based radar observations long before any images from spacecrafts had been collected. Debussy crater is named in honor of Claude Debussy (1862-1918), a French composer. If you haven’t heard him, neither have I until tonight, this is a great song Claire Debussy – Clair de Lune

Here is an image of Matabei also taken by MESSENGER’s second Mercury flyby; the image was acquired October 6th 2008. This crater was formed by a meteoroid strike that caused material from the target area to eject outward at a high velocity. In this image you can see a set of dark rays emanating from the small crater of Matabei. These dark rays are a bit rare on Mercury and hopefully color images of MESSENGER’s orbital mission phase will be used to explore further into the nature of these dark rays. The brighter/lightes rays are characteristics of freshly impacted rock; meaning they are younger than Mercury’s surface.

Over the next 3 days MESSENGER will capture 1185 more images. A year-long primary science phase of the MESSENGER mission will begin on April 4th, and the orbital observation plan calls for Mercury Dual Imageing System (MDIS) to collect more than 75,000 images to support MESSENGER’s science goals.

In the one-year primary mission the spacecraft will unravel the history and the evolution of our innermost planet using it’s seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation. If you would like to read more about MESSENGER and it’s mission go to the MESSENGER page. Also visit the “Why Mercury” section of the MESSENGER page to learn more about the science questions that it has been set out to answer.

MESSENGER Gears Up To Orbit Mercury

This week MESSENGER will become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, the closest planet to the our sun. Messenger stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENironment, GEochemistry and Ranging.

This Thursday at 20:45 (8:45pm) EDT, MESSENGER will execute a 15-minute maneuver that will put it into Mercury’s orbit. This orbit will be a year-long science campaign to understand the planet. In the years time that it will spend orbiting around Mercury, it will fly around it 730 times.

The MESSENGER mission is an effort to study the geologic history, magnetic field surface composition and other mysteries of the planet. This mission is led by NASA, the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and the Carnegie Institution. With more and more rocky planets being discovered in other solar systems there are hopes to broaden our understanding of rocky planets. Mercury is only slightly larger than our Moon and it’s core should have solidified. However, the presence of a magnetic field suggests the planet’s insides are partially molten.

During MESSENGER’s journey toward Mercury it had passed the planet several times, filling in the imaging gaps left by Mariner 10, which performed three fly-by maneuvers between 1974 and 1975. With Mariner 10’s images and MESSENGER’s images it has images the entire planet with an exception of about 5 percent. Previously Mariner 10 had only taken images of one side of Mercury leaving the other side a mystery. Once MESSENGER is in place it will focus it’s cameras on getting the best possible images of the remaining portions which is mostly in the polar regions.


The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins will be airing a live webcast (also follow the link for the MESSENGER mission website) about the orbit insertion maneuver starting at 19:55 (7:55pm) EDT on Thursday, March 17.