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A Northern Footprint
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A Northern Footprint

October 18, 2011
The X-Ray Spectrometer (XRS) on MESSENGER collects compositional information for relatively large regions on Mercury’s surface, and strong signals are only received during times of high solar activity. The blue region outlined in this wide-angle camera image mosaic shows the region visible to the XRS during a solar flare on 16 April 2011. The XRS data indicates that the area is basaltic in composition, the same type of volcanic rock that comprises the lunar maria. This region is part of the vast, high-reflectance northern plains that cover approximately 6% of Mercury’s surface. The 1000, 750, and 430 nm bands of the Wide Angle Camera are displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively. 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