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Shadows in the North
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Shadows in the North

May 4, 2012
Presented at: A press conference held at the 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, The Woodlands, Texas, USA. In total, MESSENGER team members are presenting 57 papers at this conference. Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) Scale: On Mercury, 5° of latitude is approximately 213 km Map Information: Polar stereographic projection with every 5° of latitude and 30° of longitude indicated and with 0° longitude at the bottom Of Interest: MESSENGER’s highly eccentric orbit passes high above Mercury’s south pole and low over Mercury’s north polar region. Consequently, unlike for the south, a single WAC image cannot view the entire north polar region. However, more than 6,000 WAC images have been acquired of Mercury’s north polar region, providing views under different illumination conditions over two Mercury solar days. These images allow areas to be mapped that are in shadow in all MDIS images to date. This mosaic shows a view of Mercury’s north polar region assembled from those images, with areas in shadow shown in red. A small fraction of Mercury’s surface near the north pole has yet to be imaged and is the focus of a new imaging campaign in MESSENGER’s newly inaugurated extended mission. Radar-bright features near Mercury's north pole, that may be water ice, collocate with shadowed areas. The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the key science questions that the MESSENGER mission is addressing. During the one-year primary mission, MDIS acquired 88,746 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is now in a yearlong extended mission, during which plans call for the acquisition of more than 80,000 additional images to support MESSENGER’s science goals. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington