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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 16:01 EDT
Sunlight Near the North Pole
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Sunlight Near the North Pole

August 18, 2011
  • Date acquired: June 19, 2011
  • Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 216930156
  • Image ID: 396833
  • Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
  • WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
  • Center Latitude: 85.74°
  • Center Longitude: 253.1° E
  • Resolution: 163 meters/pixel
  • Scale: This image is approximately 125 km (78 mi) across
  • Incidence Angle: 88.7°
  • Emission Angle: 46.9°
  • Phase Angle: 135.6°


Of Interest: This image was taken with an extremely high incidence angle, indicating that the depicted surface is close to the terminator. Unlike a low incidence angle, at which color observations are optimal, a high incidence angle highlights surface morphology. The image was taken relatively near the north pole of Mercury, a region that receives little sunlight.

This image was acquired as part of MDIS's high-resolution surface morphology base map. The surface morphology base map will cover more than 90% of Mercury's surface with an average resolution of 250 meters/pixel (0.16 miles/pixel or 820 feet/pixel). Images acquired for the surface morphology base map typically have off-vertical Sun angles (i.e., high incidence angles) and visible shadows so as to reveal clearly the topographic form of geologic features.

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.