MESSENGER’s first image from orbit

The MESSENGER probe began sending images of Mercury back to Earth yesterday. Here is the historic first image from orbit:

Click on the image to go to the MESSENGER website and download a larger version.

The large feature with rays, near the top of the photo, is an impact crater named Debussy. The crater is about 85 km across, with the rays stretching hundreds of km, covering much of the southern half of the planet. Radio images of the crater and rays indicate that it’s a relatively young crater, though astronomers don’t know how young.

Image of impact crater Debussy taken by MESSENGER during a previous flyby of Mercury

Related posts:

Recommended reading: