On March 18, 2011, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft entered orbit around Mercury, becoming the first spacecraft ever to do so. Among the many instruments on this pioneering probe is a wide-angle camera capable of generating high-resolution images of the planet's surface. By stitching thousands of these images together, scientists created the first complete map of Mercury. The result isn't just a pretty picture. The map's enhanced colors, produced by special filters fitted on the camera, tell a story about the chemical, mineralogical and geological history of the innermost planet in our solar system. Young craters, for example, appear light blue or white. Tan regions mark plains formed by lava flows. Dark blue represents areas rich in a dark mineral. Watch the visualization for a tour of this colorful new view of Mercury.
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Images, visualization and animation courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
- Alex Kasprak (USRA) [Lead]