This video is a tribute to the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission to Mercury. Launched on Aug 3rd, 2004, MESSENGER circled the Sun 15.3 times over the course of six and a half years before entering orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011. Discoveries from orbit have led planetary geologists to rethink and reform some hypotheses on the formation and evolution of the innermost planet.
The engineering, mission operations, and science teams have worked hard to ensure the safety of the spacecraft and success of the mission. The mission has, to date, operated almost without anomaly, and the spacecraft and payload remain healthy and productive.
After one Earth-year in orbit around Mercury, MESSENGER successfully completed its Primary Mission on 17 March 2012, and is now nearing the end of its First Extended Mission (XM1). A proposed Second Extended Mission (XM2) is under consideration. XM2 makes use of almost all remaining resources to continue operations for another two years, until March 2015. The pull of the Sun’s gravity acts to lower the spacecraft’s closest approach to the planet, and ultimately it will impact the surface – at about 14,000 kph/8700 mph!
This video is a tribute to MESSENGER as well as to the people who operate it and keep it running and safe, and to the science team who have worked hard to interpret the data they have collected, a sampling that is presented in this video. The vast majority of this video highlights images from the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) camera, as most of the rest of the instrument findings are more… 'abstract' for a simple visual eye-candy video. But at the link below you can find all the exciting non-imaging findings from those instruments, as well as the images in this video, and many, many more.
Some highlights of note:
At 0:06 - This sequence is made from the approach navigation images taken during the first Mercury Flyby in 2008
At 0:48 - Blue rays of Beck Crater
At 0:54 - Basho Crater
At 0:57 - Poe crater in the Caloris Basin
At 1:17 - Illustration showing the ground tracks of the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) instrument surface scans in ultraviolet and infrared
At 1:19 - A perspective view of the northern polar region, color-coded to topographical highs and lows, as measured from the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA). The bluer the color, the lower altitude it is, and the redder/white the color, the higher altitude it is. The total dynamical range of altitude variation is ~10 km/~6 miles
At 1:27 - Rembrandt Impact Basin, the 8th largest in the Solar System
At 1:29 - Rembrandt Impact Basin superimposed on the New England States of the US for size comparison
At 1:34 - Rachmaninoff Impact Basin, 3D effect crated using the digital elevation model.
At 1:57 - Debussy Crater
At 1:58 - Beagle Rupes, the tallest and longest (600km or 370 miles long) cliff band on the planet
At 2:04 - Mosaic view of North Pole, showing the permanently shadowed regions
At 2:06 - As previous, with superimposed data from Arecibo Radio Telescope's bright returns which are deposits of water-ice.
At 2:09 & 2:11 - volcanic vents near the edge of the Caloris Basin
At 2:45 - Degas Crater
At 2:34 - Derain Crater
At 2:36 - Unnamed set of craters that with the right shadowing resemble Mickey Mouse
At 2:38 - Basho Crater while the Sun is low to the horizon, casting shadows and showing terrain relief
At 2:40 - Basho Crater again, but now with the Sun nearly overhead, the shadows are lost, but other features are now prominently visible.
At 2:58 - Termed 'weird terrain', this hilly and linefeed textured region located diametrically opposite that of the Caloris Basin, formed from converging seismic waves emanating from the Caloris Basin impact.
At 3:03 & 3:05 - Waters Crater with the 'blue tongue' of dark impact melt material
At 3:10 - Seuss Crater
At 3:13 - Caloris Basin canyons
At 3:15 - Pit in the Scarlatti Crater, with prominent hollows on the pit rim
At 3:17 - False color of the Caloris Basin
At 3:22 - A lava channel that had flowed into the Kofi Crater
At 3:30 - The young, bright-rayed Mena crater
At 3:37 - Central peaks of Eminescu impact crater, with a collection of hollows around the bases of the peaks
At 3:38 - Apollodorus and Pantheon Fossae
At 3:41 - The hollows on the floor of Sander Crater
At 1:00 - The top-down perspective view illustrates how MESSENGER's orbital plane changes as Mercury orbits the Sun, at a resolution of a 24-hour period per frame, 24 frames/second, so ~1 month real time for every second of the animation
All images and animation stills, and video sequences are at: messenger.jhuapl.edu
Music: "Mercury Ridge" by Simon WIlkinson (thebluemask.com)
Images courtesy of NASA, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and Carnegie Institute of Washington