Press Release

Planetary Data System Releases MESSENGER Data from Third Mercury Solar Day

By SpaceRef Editor
March 11, 2013
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Planetary Data System Releases MESSENGER Data from Third Mercury Solar Day

The Planetary Data System (PDS), which archives and distributes data from all of NASA’s planetary missions, today released data collected during MESSENGER’s thirteenth through eighteenth month in orbit around Mercury. With this release, images and measurements are now available to the public for the third full Mercury solar day of MESSENGER orbital operations.

NASA requires that all of its planetary missions archive data in the PDS, which makes available well-documented, peer-reviewed data to the research community. This ninth delivery of MESSENGER measurements includes raw and calibrated data from all seven of the mission’s science instruments, plus radio science data from the spacecraft telecommunications system, from March 25 to September 17, 2012.

The team has also provided, for the first time in this release, advanced products created with data collected through March 25, 2012, encompassing the first two full Mercury solar days of MESSENGER orbital operations. Those products include the first global mosaics of Mercury to be delivered to PDS.

“The two advanced image products in this release are an eight-color map and a higher-resolution monochrome map,” says Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) Instrument Scientist Nancy Chabot, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). “They are both the products of thousands of images mosaicked together to reveal Mercury’s global geology and color characteristics. These mosaics required considerable effort by many on the MESSENGER team, and we are all very proud to make these global maps available.”

Other advanced products include summed gamma-ray spectra and background-subtracted, geolocated neutron counts from the Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer; time-averaged magnetic field data from the Magnetometer; altimeter profiles, radiometry, and a northern hemisphere digital elevation map produced with data from the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA); limb tangent height and surface reflectance spectra from the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer; pitch-angle and measured-flux distributions and energy spectra from the Energetic Particle and Plasma Spectrometer; and occultation data and spherical harmonic gravity and shape models derived from the radio science investigation and the MLA.

“Many in the public have been eagerly awaiting the release of the MESSENGER advanced products, and the MESSENGER team is excited to be able to provide them,” says APL’s Susan Ensor, MESSENGER’s Science Operations Center lead. “Extra analyses and processing are required to generate these products, which in many cases combine data over time and include maps, topography, and other global data. The team has also worked closely with the PDS in planning and documenting these new products to ensure their long-term usefulness to the science community.”

“Mercury is a planet of many mysteries,” adds MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “With each increment of data, we have made discoveries that raised new questions. Finding answers to those questions requires further analysis. We hope that this latest release of MESSENGER data will induce more of our colleagues from the broader planetary science community to help us unravel the many stories that Mercury has yet to tell.”

The MESSENGER mission’s ACT-REACT-QuickMap software, developed by Applied Coherent Technology Corporation, 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. Future enhancements to QuickMap will include simple data fusion, by which data sets from multiple elements of the payload may be combined.

QuickMap can be accessed via links on the MESSENGER websites at and The MDIS mosaics can be downloaded from

The data for this release are available online at, and all of the MESSENGER data archived at the PDS thus far are available at The team will submit two more data deliveries to PDS at six-month intervals from MESSENGER’s extended mission.

SpaceRef staff editor.