In the 1970s, Mariner 10 photographed less than half of Mercury's surface. MESSENGER's mission is to enter orbit around the planet, complete the detailed mapping of Mercury and return data about magnetic fields and particles in the planet's vicinity.
This month will be the best time to see Mercury. Usually the planet is very hard to observe because it orbits very close to the sun and it can only be seen at dawn and dusk. However on the evening of February 8, Mercury will be seen within less than 0.4 degrees of the much-fainter planet, Mars.
Mercury looks so much like our Moon, doesn’t it? 🙂 This photo of the unusual Rembrandt impact basin was taken by the robotic MESSENGER spacecraft in 2008. The Rembrandt impact basin spans over 700 kilometers and is 4 billion years old, which makes it probably the youngest large impact basin on the planet. Data transmitted by MESSENGER indicate that the crater floor contains unusually high amounts of iron and titanium. This would indicate that those exposed materials have not been covered by more recent lava floes, and so most probably originated in an early epoch of Mercury’s formation. Image Credit: NASA/JHU APS/ASU/CIW – MESSENGER Mission