MESSENGER is now returning images as it is bearing down on Earth. This view was captured on July 24 and shows South America covered by clouds:
NASA / JHUAPL / Carnegie Institution of Washington
South America viewed by MESSENGER
The MESSENGER mission flew past Earth for a gravity assist on its way to Mercury, capturing these "natural" (left) and "false color" (right) views. The three-band composite at left is made from filters with peak sensitivities near 480 nm, 560 nm and 630 nm. These filters help distinguish materials with distinct visible color differences (ilmenite, volcanic glasses) but are also very close to the sensitivity of the human eye. (Natural color is somewhat subjective, so this combination of bands is "approximate" natural color.) The spacecraft was 102,918 kilometers above Earth when the images were taken.