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by Staff Writers
Laurel MD (SPX) Mar 12, 2012
Data collected during MESSENGER's third through sixth month in orbit around Mercury were released to the public by the Planetary Data System (PDS), an organization that archives and distributes all of NASA's planetary mission data. With this release, data are now available to the public for the first full Mercury solar day of MESSENGER orbital operations.
Calibrated data from all seven of MESSENGER's science instruments, plus radio science data from the spacecraft telecommunications system, are included in this release. The science results have shed light on many aspects of Mercury, including its global magnetic field, the dynamics of its exosphere, its surface composition, its geological evolution, and its interior structure.
The images included in this release provide monochrome views at 250 meters per pixel and eight-color image sets at 1 kilometer per pixel.
Apart from small gaps, many of which have already been filled by subsequent imaging, these images cover the entire planet under lighting conditions ideal either for assessing the form of Mercury's surface features or for determining the color and compositional variations across the planet.
For more than two decades, NASA has required all of its planetary missions to archive data in the PDS, an active archive that makes available well-documented, peer-reviewed data to the research community.
The PDS includes eight university/research center science teams, called discipline nodes, each of which specializes in a specific area of planetary data. The contributions from these nodes provide a data-rich source for scientists, researchers, and developers.
As of this release, MESSENGER will have delivered 1.7 terabytes of raw and calibrated data to the PDS, including more than 62,355 images (of which 49,275 are from orbit). The team will submit four more PDS deliveries at six-month intervals from MESSENGER's primary orbital mission and its extended mission.
The MESSENGER team has created a software tool with which the public can view data from this delivery. ACT-REACT-QuickMap provides an interactive Web interface to MESSENGER data.
Developed by Applied Coherent Technology Corporation, the software allows users to examine global mosaics constructed with high-resolution images from this and previous PDS deliveries.
The tool also provides weekly updates of coverage for surface-observing instruments, as well as the status of specially targeted MDIS observations. Information is also available that can be used to locate MESSENGER data products at the PDS.
"This latest release marks another important milestone in the sharing of MESSENGER data with planetary scientists and the public," adds MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
"Mercury has presented us with many mysteries to date, and solving those mysteries will take new ideas and new analyses from throughout the scientific community."
Messenger Mercury Mission at APL
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