NASA releases colorful new picture of Mercury before probe crash-lands

Looking Good, Mercury: NASA Releases Colorful New Images

Looking good, Mercury! NASA produced stunning new images this week one of Earth's closest planetary neighbors, that might be just a little reminiscent of a '60s-era poster

The pics came courtesy of the MESSENGER spacecraft, which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging.

The space probe - the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury - has collected over 250,000 images since it started orbiting in March 2011.

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NASA releases colorful new picture of Mercury before probe crash-lands

A view of the planet Mercury from the MESSENGER spacecraft, which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging. (Photo via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

Ten years ago, on August 3, 2004, NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a risky mission that would take the small satellite dangerously close to Mercury’s surface, paving the way for an ambitious study of the planet closest to the Sun. (Photo via NASA)
A solar flare erupted on the far side of the sun on June 4, 2011, and sent solar neutrons out into space. (Photo via NASA/STEREO/Helioviewer)

South America and portions of North America and Africa are shown in this false-color image from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, taken on an Aug. 2, 2005 Earth flyby to adjust the spacecraft's path to Mercury. (Photo via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

This color image, taken on May 1, 2013 by the Wide Angle Camera (WAC) instrument aboard NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft orbiting Mercury, features Hovnatanian crater, named for Armenian painter Hakop Hovnatanian. (Photo via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)
This new, high-resolution view of Cunningham crater was recently acquired by MESSENGER. What you can't see in this image, which shows striking details of the crater's interior, is the extensive set of rays associated with Cunningham. The bright rays of Cunningham indicate that the crater is relatively young, having formed on Mercury likely within the last billion years. In this new view, the preserved terraces of the crater walls, the well-defined central peak, and the limited number of overlying small craters are also all signs of Cunningham's relative youth. (Photo via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics)
This colorful view of Mercury was produced by using images from the color base map imaging campaign during MESSENGER's primary mission. These colors are not what Mercury would look like to the human eye, but rather the colors enhance the chemical, mineralogical, and physical differences between the rocks that make up Mercury's surface. (Photo via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)
The crater at the center of this scene is named for choreographer George Balanchine, as the beautiful swath of diffuse blue ejecta emanating from the crater might remind one of the famous blue tutus in one of Balanchine's most well known ballets, Serenade. (Photo via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)
This image of Mercury, acquired by the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) aboard NASA's MESSENGER mission on April 23, 2013, allows us to take a step back to view the planet. Prior to the MESSENGER mission, Mercury's surface was often compared to the surface of Earth's moon, when in fact, Mercury and the moon are very different. (Photo via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)
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But despite what these vivid images might have you think, Mercury hasn't really been tye-dyed by aliens. The MESSENGER probe has a system that captures spectral data, which was overlaid onto monochrome images showing the planet's terrain. NASA visualized the wavelengths of light by converting them into colors.

The latest images are a bit of a last hurrah for the probe, which is almost out of fuel and about to crash land spectacularly onto the planet's surface.

MESSENGER will be doing 8,750 mph when it spirals down, but the impact is expected to be on the far side of the planet, hidden from the view of Earth.

"Rest in pieces" seems a suitable epitaph, considering the spacecraft will be ramming the planet at Mach 12.

But humans won't leave Mercury alone for long: European and Japanese space agencies are planning new Mercury-orbiting probes to launch in January 2017.

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