June 19, 2012
Mickey Mouse Seen On Mercury
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
NASA's MESSENGER probe has sent back an image from Mercury that is either an alien's sense of humor, or a few asteroid's depiction of Mickey Mouse on the sun-baked planet.A Mickey Mouse face can now be seen on Mercury's surface thanks to NASA's MESSENGER probe, which became the first spacecraft to orbit the planet back in March 2011.
The shape is made up of three overlapping craters on Mercury's southern hemisphere, northwest of the crater known as Magritte.
“The shadowing helps define the striking ℠Mickey Mouse´ resemblance, created by the accumulation of craters over Mercury´s long geologic history,” says NASA in the photo description on Flickr.
The largest of the three craters that makes up Mickey's face measures about 65 miles across, according to NASA.
MESSENGER is helping NASA scientists create a high-incidence-angle base map. This map is part of the spacecraft's latest mission extension since it completed its first mission a few months ago.
The first year-long mission saw that MESSENGER mapped out the surface of the planet, giving scientists moderate incidence angles.
Under the new mission, the high incidence angles are seen when the Sun is near the horizon, allowing scientists to use long shadows created by the Sun's positioning to accentuate the topography of geologic features.
The high-incidence-angle base map of the planet is being acquired with an average resolution of about 650-feet per pixel.
During the primary mission, MESSENGER acquired 88,746 images, as well as other extensive sets of data. The spacecraft's new mission calls for more than 80,000 additional images.