Search Menu
Photonics Media Photonics Marketplace Photonics Spectra BioPhotonics Vision Spectra Photonics Showcase Photonics ProdSpec Photonics Handbook
LightMachinery Inc. - Picometer resolution

Messenger Peeks at Earth

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email
LAUREL, Md., June 1 -- NASA's Mercury-bound Messenger spacecraft -- less than three months from an Earth flyby that will slingshot it toward the inner solar system -- successfully tested its main camera by snapping distant approach shots of Earth and the Moon. Messenger took a set of six pictures on May 11 with the narrow-angle camera in its Mercury dual-imaging system (MDIS).

This processed image is from the narrow-angle camera of the Mercury Dual Imaging System, or MDIS, on NASA's Messenger spacecraft. Earth was about 18.4 million miles (29.6 million kilometers) from Messenger at the time, but the main processed image clearly shows bands of clouds between North and South America on Earth's sunlit side. The Moon was 248,898 miles (400,563 kilometers) from Earth.
S. Edward Hawkins III, lead engineer for MDIS at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., said finding the Moon in the pictures was an unexpected bonus. "As we stretched the image, we saw this little object to the side, which turned out to be the Moon," he said. "That was exciting."

One of seven instruments in Messenger's science payload, the multispectral MDIS has wide- and narrow-angle imagers, both based on charge-coupled devices (CCDs) found in common digital cameras. MDIS has taken nearly 400 test shots since Messenger launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last August, but all were of star fields, dark space or a calibration target on Messenger's lower deck.

The photo session was just part of the preparations for an August 2 Earth flyby, the first major adjustment to Messenger's flight path toward Mercury. While MDIS took its pictures, the Mercury laser altimeter team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland checked its instrument's alignment by firing a high-powered laser at it from a ground-based Goddard telescope.

The mission operations and science teams are also finalizing plans to calibrate several instruments -- including the magnetometer, energetic particle and plasma spectrometer, and Mercury atmospheric and surface composition spectrometer -- during approach and departure observations of Earth and the Moon. During a 4.9-billion mile (7.9-billion kilometer) journey that includes 15 trips around the Sun, Messenger will fly past Earth once, Venus twice and Mercury three times before easing into orbit around its target planet.

For more information, visit:
Jun 2005
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
charge-coupled devicesenergyJohns Hopkins University Applied Physics LaboratoryMDISMercury Dual Imaging SystemMessenger spacecraftNASANews & Featuresphotonicsspectroscopy

back to top
Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube RSS
©2022 Photonics Media, 100 West St., Pittsfield, MA, 01201 USA, [email protected]

Photonics Media, Laurin Publishing
x We deliver – right to your inbox. Subscribe FREE to our newsletters.
We use cookies to improve user experience and analyze our website traffic as stated in our Privacy Policy. By using this website, you agree to the use of cookies unless you have disabled them.