Machaut by MESSENGER

By Phil Plait | October 7, 2008 11:24 pm


MESSENGER picture of the 100 km crater Machaut on Mercury
MESSENGER’s view of the 100 km crater Machaut.

I don’t think I need to say much, except there’s more to come.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (21)


    Here’s an animation of how A Day on Mercury would appear to an observer on the planet.

  2. gopher65

    My thoughts exactly Naomi. I still wish they’d funded an outer planets mission instead, but at least we’re getting some pretty pictures:).

  3. Observe the fuzzy shadows caused by the crater rim. I think the fuzziness is caused by the larger aparent diameter of the Sun at that distance, and that could be a proof that the picture is really from Mercury.

    Man, isn’t it awesome when you can tell things like those just watching at some details? :)

  4. Chip

    Crater Machaut on Mercury: Being a musician I immediately thought of the medieval French composer (as well as soldier and poet,) Guillaume de Machaut. However I suspected that the crater is probably named after a scientist with the same name, but no. As the text with that fantastic image stated, the crater is indeed named after the composer.

    He composed many love songs and poems and also wrote one of the earliest pieces of cerebral music titled “Ma fin est mon commencement” (“My end is my beginning”) in which a rather syncopated melody is sung then mirrored in retrograde and then inverted and then heard in retrograde-inversion. All the while the simultaneous accompanying parts are the same melody running in the opposite direction, backwards (retrograde), inverted (upside down) and upside down and backwards (retrograde-inversion). And it all sounds beautiful.

  5. Nigel Depledge

    Great stuff here. IIUC, Messenger will eventually go into orbit around Mercury. We should then be getting weekly doses of Mercurial goodness. I can’t wait!

    Erm … that’s Mercury the planet, not mercury the toxic element.

  6. Jo√£o

    OT, any news on 2008 TC3? It’s been a while and no video, no update post, no confirmation…
    Has anyone confirmed it has “landed” as scheduled?

  7. occam's comic

    Does anyone know why we don’t see any ejected material from the two smaller craters in the center of the big crater?

  8. Bigfoot

    The upper-right of the two objects in the middle has interesting contours that I am having trouble resolving in my puny underevolved brain.

    The two-crescent feature that comprise this are both convex, not concave. I presume the material in the center was filled in after, but I still have a hard time reconciling the events that lead up to this, as the center betwee the crescents looks about as old as the overall floor of the main crater that fills the whole picture.

    So did the small two-crescent feature pre-date the fill-in of the large crater?

    I love the striking contrast of the classic younger convex crater that is adjacent.

  9. Cheyenne

    Neat pics. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

    Off topic but what is with potentially canceling the Mars Science Laboratory mission?

    One small question that that rover could answer is whether life exists (or existed) on another planet. No big deal there….

  10. BMcP

    Wow! That is amazingly detailed and crisp! wonder what the resolution of the camera is?

  11. Gary Ansorge

    Thanks for the musical link. Now I just have to hear that music. Being a fan of the Dead, contrapuntal, syncopated music is my Gold standard. The more complex and involved the music, the better I like it. Simple, 4/4 pop music is so boring,,,

    Gary 7

  12. Gary Ansorge

    100 km crater? Good thing there were no dinosaurs to be extinctified,,,snark,,,

    GAry 7

  13. IVAN3MAN

    @ Gary Ansorge

    Taking of music, here is Vivaldi at Sunrise on Mercury:

    Vivaldi at Sunrise on Mercury

    Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

  14. rob

    i don’t know. seems kind of dark, and there are many shadows. they should have used a brighter flash.


  15. IVAN3MAN

    ERRATUM: D’oh! My post above should read Talking of music…, not “Taking”! Bloody typos! Can we have an editing facility here, please, Phil?

  16. Bob

    I clearly see some kind of half-dome covering one of the craters.

    Obviously, this is evidence for life on Mercury. *Intelligent* life, since they’ve created sports arenas with retractable ceilings.

  17. My god, it’s full of… the moon?

  18. Chip

    A crater named “Vivaldi” – someone at NASA/Johns Hopkins University likes classical music. Then again, that crater has rather “baroque” topography. ūüėÄ

  19. Negatron

    Fantastic, it took me about twenty seconds to adjust my eyes for the inverted convex/concave illusion (is there a name for this?) and then it just went BLAM!

  20. StevoR

    Chip said on Oct. 8th, 2008 at 3:20 pm :

    “A crater named ‚ÄúVivaldi‚ÄĚ – someone at NASA/Johns Hopkins University likes classical music. Then again, that crater has rather ‚Äúbaroque‚ÄĚ topography.”


    But I think (may be wrong but think) Vivaldi was named earlier being on the “visible bit” of the planet & NOT by NASA JHU.

    My understanding (which again could be wrong) is that features on Mercury are generally named after musicians, poets, composers and artists as an IAU naming policy. The Caloris (heat ) Basin being one of the few exceptions to that.

    Similarly features on Venus are named after famous or mythical women and trans-Neptunean ice dwarf planets are named after creation myth figures in indigenous cultures Ouranoite moons are named after characters in Shakespearean plays, Jovian moons named after nymphs who fell victim to his amourous advances, etc ..

    Cool image anyway.

    Is there more to come from this fly-by still?

    Did they ever find the Mercurian shield volcano suggested by Arecibo radio mapping data?

    Anyone know & care to enlighten me?


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