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Yesterday, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew past Mercury and photographed a broad swath of never-before-seen terrain. The first of more than 1,200 high-resolution images are arriving back at Earth now.

"The MESSENGER team is extremely pleased by the superb performance of the spacecraft and the payload," says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "We are now on the correct trajectory for eventual insertion into orbit around Mercury, and all of our instruments returned data as planned."

This spectacular image - one of the first to be returned - was snapped by the spacecraft's Wide Angle Camera (WAC) about 90 minutes after MESSENGER's closest approach to Mercury, when the spacecraft was at a distance of about 27,000 kilometers (about 17,000 miles):



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