Radius and limb topography of Mercury obtained from images acquired during the MESSENGER flybys

Jürgen Oberst, Stephan Elgner, F. Scott Turner, Mark E. Perry, Robert W. Gaskell, Maria T. Zuber, Mark Robinson, Sean C. Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Analysis of images obtained by the MESSENGER spacecraft during its three flybys of Mercury yields a new estimate for the planets mean radius of 2439.25±0.69 km, in agreement with results from Mariner 10 and Earth-based observations, as well as with MESSENGER altimeter and occultation data. The mean equatorial radius and polar radius are identical to within error, suggesting that rotational oblateness is negligible when compared with other sources of topography. This result is consistent with the small gravitational oblateness of the planet. Minor differences in radius obtained at different locations reflect regional variations in topography. Residual topography along three limb profiles has a dynamic range of 7.4 km and a root-mean-square roughness of 0.8 km over hemispherical scales. Following MESSENGERs entry into orbit about Mercury in March 2011, we expect considerable additional improvements to our knowledge of Mercurys size and shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1918-1924
Number of pages7
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number15
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


  • Imaging
  • Mercury
  • Radius
  • Topography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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