A movie of a low periherm – closest point to Mercury in the orbit of the MESSENGER spacecraft – has made from 214 MDIS NAC images. The movie was made in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of MESSENGER on August 3, 2004. MESSENGER was passing over the north polar Borealis Quadrangle of Mercury when the images used in movie were collected. Its speed was 3.7 kilometers / 2.3 miles per second or 13,320 kph / 8,272 mph.
The altitude ranged from 115 kilometers / 74 miles to 165 kilometers / 102 miles.
On July 25, 2014, MESSENGER’s periherm – closest point to Mercury – dropped below 100 kilometers / 62 miles, the first manmade object ever to get so close to Mercury.
On August 19, 2014, periherm will drop below 50 kilometers / 31 miles.
On September 12, 2014 periherm will have lowered to 25 kilometers / 15.52 miles when a reboost raises it to 94 kilometers / 58.37 miles. Periherm will be raised again on: October 24, 2014 and once more on: January 21, 2015, when the fuel on board MESSENGER is expected to be depleted.
MESSENGER is expected to impact Mercury on the weekend of March 28-29, 2015.
Bottom line: You’ve got to see this movie made by the MESSENGER spacecraft in June 2014, when it began a series of close passes to the sun’s innermost planet, Mercury.
Andrew R. Brown, an avid follower of the space program, writes frequently about space topics for EarthSky. Over several years, he has also suggested observations that were carried out by imaging teams of some space missions. He has lives in Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom and works for local government, Kent County Council.