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30 October 2011

Color Image of Mercury from NASA's MESSENGER Satellite


(Click on image for larger view.)

Dominici crater, the very bright crater to the top of this image, exhibits bright rays and contains hollows. This crater lies upon the peak ring of Homer Basin, a very degraded peak ring basin that has been filled by volcanism. This image contains several examples of craters that have excavated materials from depth that are spectrally distinct from the surface volcanic layers, providing windows into the subsurface. MESSENGER scientists are estimating the approximate depths of these spectrally distinct materials by applying knowledge of how impacts excavate material during the cratering process. The 1000, 750, and 430 nm bands of the Wide Angle Camera are displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively.

This image was acquired as a high-resolution targeted observation. Targeted observations are images of a small area on Mercury's surface at resolutions much higher than the 250-meter/pixel (820 feet/pixel) morphology base map or the 1-kilometer/pixel (0.6 miles/pixel) color base map. It is not possible to cover all of Mercury's surface at this high resolution during MESSENGER's one-year mission, but several areas of high scientific interest are generally imaged in this mode each week.

The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the key science questions that the MESSENGER mission is addressing. During the one-year primary mission, MDIS is scheduled to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER's science goals.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington