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As Soft As Velvet
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As Soft As Velvet

December 21, 2012
Date acquired: November 17, 2012 Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 261627279 Image ID: 2971208 Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) Center Latitude: 22.03° Center Longitude: 146.4° E Resolution: 54 meters/pixel Scale: This scene is 106 km (66 mi.) across Incidence Angle: 39.1° Emission Angle: 61.4° Phase Angle: 90.9° Of Interest: Today's image highlights the velvety texture that surrounds several volcanic vents near the rim of the Caloris basin. This soft texture, like freshly fallen snow, is formed by the emplacement of tiny beads of lava that were explosively erupted and then quenched and solidified before they reached the surface. This diffuse deposit blankets impact craters and older vents, and becomes thinner farther from the source of the eruption. 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. 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, MESSENGER acquired 88,746 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is now in a yearlong extended mission, during which plans call for the acquisition of more than 80,000 additional images to support MESSENGER's science goals. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington