HomeNews & PublicationsFeatured StoriesTwelfth Batch of MESSENGER Data Released; Water Ice Exploration Tool Unveiled 

September 8, 2014

Twelfth Batch of MESSENGER Data Released; Water Ice Exploration Tool Unveiled


Egonu and Monk, two of Mercury's craters
Finding evidence for water ice on the planet closest to the Sun was an exciting discovery, but there is still more to learn about Mercury’s icy deposits. Regions of permanent shadow seem to be a requirement for water ice to reside on the Solar System’s innermost planet, so the large majority of Mercury’s water ice deposits are located within impact craters at high latitudes. The two craters shown here, Egonu and Monk, both appear to have areas of permanent shadow and radar-bright deposits (shown in yellow) that are associated with water ice. However these craters are located a fair distance from Mercury’s pole, all the way down at 66° latitude! How long can ice stay in these craters? That is just one of the interesting questions about Mercury’s water ice deposits still being investigated.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Data collected during MESSENGER’s 31st through 36th month in orbit around Mercury were released to the public today by the Planetary Data System (PDS), an organization that archives and distributes NASA’s planetary mission data. With this release, data are now available to the public through the sixth full Mercury solar day of MESSENGER orbital operations.

NASA requires that all of its planetary missions archive their data in the PDS, which provides documented, peer-reviewed data to the research community. This 12th delivery of MESSENGER data extends the formatted raw and calibrated data available at the PDS for the spacecraft’s science instruments and the radio science investigation to the period from September 18, 2013, to March 17, 2014. Spacecraft, planet, instrument, camera-matrix, and events (SPICE) data from launch through the period of this release are also included.

The ACT-REACT QuickMap interactive Web interface to MESSENGER data has been updated to incorporate the full coverage of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) orbital data and the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) Visible and Infrared Spectrograph (VIRS) measurements included in this delivery. QuickMap can be accessed via links on the MESSENGER websites at http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/ and http://www.nasa.gov/messenger. MDIS mosaics can be downloaded from http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/the_mission/mosaics.html.

In addition, the MESSENGER team has unveiled a version of the public QuickMap interface tailored for students and educators—the Water Ice Data Exploration (WIDE) tool. The WIDE tool highlights the sequence of data acquired over four decades, culminating in MESSENGER’s observations, which led to confirmation of the proposal that water ice is present in Mercury’s north polar region.

“Observations by the MESSENGER spacecraft have provided compelling support for the 20-year-old hypothesis that Mercury hosts abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials in its permanently shadowed polar craters,” said Montana State University’s Keri Hallau, of MESSENGER’s Education and Public Outreach team. “We wanted to create a suite of materials to engage the public in the scientific process that led to this discovery.”

The WIDE suite consists of a video presentation from a mission scientist and engineer, a pencil-and-paper activity, and an introductory version of QuickMap, the interactive data-mapping tool. Each of these individual parts examines Mariner 10 flyby data from the 1970s, Earth-based radar data from the early 1990s, and MESSENGER flyby and orbital data from several instruments to show the progression of evidence in support of this conclusion. The tool is available online at http://www.messenger-education.org/teachers/wide.php.

The data for this release are available online at http://pds.nasa.gov/subscription_service/SS-20140905.html, and all of the MESSENGER data archived at the PDS are available at http://pds.nasa.gov. The team will deliver the next mission data set for release by PDS in March 2015.

Media contact: Paulette Campbell, 240-228-6792, Paulette.Campbell@jhuapl.edu