COS Distinguished Speaker: Imaging the Planet Mercury

nancy chabot distinguished speaker mercury

Imaging the Planet Mercury

Dr. Nancy Chabot
Planetary Scientist
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

In 2011, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft became the first to ever orbit the planet Mercury. For just over the next four years, the spacecraft's instrument suite obtained unprecedented measurements of the Solar System's innermost planet, revolutionizing our understanding of Mercury. The Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) was the payload element with the responsibility for morphologic and multi-spectral mapping of the planet. The MDIS instrument consisted of two cameras that utilized charge-coupled device (CCD) detectors. From the >290,000 images acquired by MDIS, the first global maps of Mercury's surface were produced, enabling a full view of the planet for the first time. The images revealed a planetary surface that has been shaped by cratering impacts, extensive plains of volcanic lava flows, and large-scale tectonic features that indicate the planet has shrunk in size over its history. MDIS images also led to the identification of explosive volcanic vents distributed across the planet; the discovery of an entirely new planetary landform unique to Mercury and dubbed "hollows;" and the direct imaging of ice on the planet closest to the Sun, trapped in the cold, shadowed craters near the planet's poles. In 2015, the MESSENGER spacecraft expended all of its fuel and impacted into the planet, ending the highly successful mission, but the legacy of the mission lives on in the ongoing research utilizing its extensive, publicly available datasets.

Speaker Bio:
Dr. Nancy L. Chabot is a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD, USA. She received an undergraduate degree in physics at Rice University and a PhD in planetary science at the University of Arizona. She has been a member of five field teams with the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program and is a Fellow of the Meteoritical Society. On NASA’s MESSENGER mission, she served as the Instrument Scientist for the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) and the Chair of the Geology Discipline Group. Currently, she is the Deputy PI for the Mars-moon Exploration with GAmma rays and NEutrons (MEGANE) instrument on the JAXA Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission and the Coordination Lead on NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. Asteroid 6899 Nancychabot is named in her honor.

Melanie Green

Event Snapshot
When and Where
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
1:00 PM-1:50 PM
Thomas Gosnell Hall

Open to the Public

Interpreter Requested


global engagement
interdisciplinary studies