These are the first pictures of Mercury taken by the Messenger spacecraft from its orbit around the planet. It has taken six years for the Nasa vessel to travel around 60million miles to the smallest planet in the solar system.

‘This image is the first ever obtained from a spacecraft in orbit about the solar system’s innermost planet,’ Nasa said.

The surface of the planet Mercury is seen in an image taken by the Messenger spacecraft. The image is the first ever from a spacecraft in orbit of Mercury

This close-up of the cratered surface of Mercury was taken with Messenger’s Narrow Angle Camera

The spacecraft, which went into orbit around the planet on March 17, took 363 images of Mercury’s surface. The upper part of the first image shows an unusual, dark-rayed crater called Debussy, while the lower part reveals a portion of Mercury near its south pole that has never before been witnessed by spacecraft, Nasa said.

Messenger was launched more than six years ago, travelling through the inner solar system and embarking on flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury. Messenger has already been able to return a partial map of the planet’s crater-filled surface after just a handful of flybys.

The close encounter with the nearest planet to our Sun is an engineering and scientific milestone and marks the first local rendezvous with the rocky little planet since 1975.

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