The above image of Mercury was taken about 17,000 miles out, 80 minutes after Messenger's closest approach of 126 miles. It is a view of Mercury never seen or imaged before.
Messenger made it's closest approach to Mercury January 14th. on it's long 4.9 billion mile journey to it's final goal of orbiting the tiny planet. That's right 4.9 billion mile journey, I know what you're thinking, "Bob have you lost your mind? what's this billion stuff? it's only 60 million miles to Mercury!". Yes I have lost my mind but that's totally besides the point, apparently because of Mercury's fast orbit and it's close proximity to the Sun, Messenger has to do a lot of planet flybys to decrease it's speed enough to obtain orbital insertion. To date Messenger has flown by Earth once, Venus 2 times and has 2 more flybys of Mercury in October 2008 and September 2009 before it obtains orbit of Mercury March 2011.
Will over at Healthy Living for People and Planet Earth brought up a good point in my comment section, Will asked why wouldn't the heat from the Sun burn up a man made probe to Mercury? Messenger has what they call a "sunshade" which amazingly enough protects the craft from the Sun and allows the electronics to operate at room temperature. We see what happens when the protective shielding doesn't deploy completely, like what happened with the first craft to visit Mercury Mariner 10.
Part of it's protective covering didn't fully open after launch rendering some of it's electronics and experiments useless. Mariner 10 made 3 passes of Mercury back in 1974/75, actually Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to use the gravitational pull of a planet (Venus) to reach another(Mercury). Mariner 10 showed Mercury to be a cratered planet, it also showed Mercury to have a magnetic field, which is crazy talk, magnetic fields are usually associated with larger planets that spin rapidly, Mercury takes 59 days to rotate and it's molten core should have cooled off long ago. Messenger hopes to answer a lot of Mercury's unanswered questions, where does it's atmosphere come from, is it shrinking and why it is so dense with metals.
I have another One of my animated gifs for your viewing pleasure, a picture I took of the Andromeda Galaxy core back in the summer of 2007. Hey I have approximately lots more images to keep em coming till Messenger Orbital Insertion 2011.