Science and Exploration

Mercury – Peaking into the Dark

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
September 10, 2013
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Mercury – Peaking into the Dark
Mercury - Peaking into the Dark
NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington

In this dramatic scene, an unnamed crater in Mercury’s northern volcanic plains is bathed in darkness as the sun sits low on the horizon.
Rising from the floor of the crater is its central peak, a small mountain resulting from the crater’s formation. A central peak is a type of crater morphology that lies between “simple” and “peak ring” in the range of crater morphology on Mercury.

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 200-meter/pixel morphology base map. It is not possible to cover all of Mercury’s surface at this high resolution, but typically several areas of high scientific interest are 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. During the first two years of orbital operations, MESSENGER acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015.

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