First Photo of Mercury From Orbit

Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab/Carnegie Institution of Washington

NASA's MESSENGER Spacecraft snapped the very first picture of Mercury from orbit, showing a desolate landscape peppered with impact craters:

"This image is the first ever obtained from a spacecraft in orbit about the solar system's innermost planet," Messenger mission scientists explained in a statement.

The new Mercury photo shows a region around the south pole of Mercury. A 53-mile (85-kilometer) wide crater called Debussy clearly stands out in the upper right of the image, with bright rays emanating from its center.

A smaller crater called Matabei, which is 15 miles (24 km) wide and is known for its "unusual dark rays," is also visible in the image to the west of the Debussy crater, mission managers explained.


I wonder if the author of the NASA piece actually meant "west" in describing Matabei, or whether he was reflexly using the term to mean "to the left in the photo." If the first crater is near the south pole, then anything else is likely to be north of it.
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