This collection of images was taken by NASA's MESSENGER Mercury spacecraft on it's 3rd flyby of the planet Mercury. The probe is scheduled to enter permanent orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011. These are just the first images to become available, so check again soon to see more!
Above, you can see the "terminator", or the region where day turns to night. Interestingly, on Mercury, the day lasts longer than the year. One year on Mercury is just a little shy of 88 Earth-days, while a day on Mercury is equivalent to just short of 116 Earth-days!
Break out your 3D glasses for this one! This is a composite image of the crater 'Rembrandt' and was composed from two images taken on MESSENGER's 2nd and 3rd flybys.
This mosaic was created by combining 66 NAC (Narrow Angle Camera) images to create one giant high-resolution picture. If you want the full resolution image, right click the following link and do a "Save As..." Full Resolution (20 MB) This image is 20 MB so if you have a slow connection it may take quite a while to download. Image courtesy of: NASA/JHUAPL/CIW/Jason Perry
MESSENGER has discovered many craters like the one above, that have pits in their floors. This is theorized to be evidence of past volcanism on Mercury. Magma forms underground chambers and tubes as it flows. Then, when impacted, some of these ancient tubes collapse to form these pits.
This image captures several of Mercury's geological features in one frame.
This image shows more of those smooth plains formed by volcanic activity in Mercury's distant past.
This image shows the rim of the crater Rembrandt (highlighted in red) and two surrounding scarps, in yellow and blue.
More pictures will be available in the near future, so check back often! Until then, check out pictures from MESSENGER's other flybys.
All images courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington, except where noted otherwise.