NASA Releases High-Resolution Images Of Mercury’s Surface
March 10, 2013

NASA Releases High-Resolution Images Of Mercury’s Surface

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Several new, high-resolution images of Mercury were among the data obtained by NASA´s Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) satellite and released by the US space agency on Friday.

The images, which show the crater-filled surface of our solar system´s innermost planet in “unprecedented detail,” were obtained by MESSENGER during its 13th through 18th month in orbit around Mercury.

They include “both an eight-color mosaic of the planet's entire surface and a higher-quality monochrome version,” noted The Verge's Louis Goddard.

The images were released on March 8 by the Planetary Data System (PDS), which archives and distributes data from all of NASA's planetary missions, officials from the agency explained in a statement.

Friday´s release was the ninth collection of MESSENGER data released by the PDS, which distributes peer-reviewed data to the research community, according to the officials. Other information included in the package were raw and calibrated data collected by all seven of the probe´s scientific instruments, as well as radio science data from orbiter's spacecraft telecommunications system from March through September 2012.

The HD images, however, were the real stars of the show. They were “the products of thousands of images mosaicked together to reveal Mercury's global geology and color characteristics,” said Nancy Chabot, Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) Instrument Scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL). “These mosaics required considerable effort by many on the Messenger team, and we are all very proud to make these global maps available."

Among the other information released on Friday include summed gamma-ray spectra and background-subtracted, geolocated neutron counts recorded by the Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer; time-averaged magnetic field data obtained by the Magnetometer; and altimeter profiles, radiometry, and a northern hemisphere digital elevation map crafted using information collected by the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA), NASA said.

Data collected from the orbiter´s Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) and Energetic Particle and Plasma Spectrometer (EPPS) were also included, according to the space agency.

"Many in the public have been eagerly awaiting the release of the Messenger advanced products, and the Messenger team is excited to be able to provide them," explained Susan Ensor, Messenger´s Science Operations Center lead. "Extra analyses and processing are required to generate these products, which in many cases combine data over time and include maps, topography, and other global data. The team has also worked closely with the PDS in planning and documenting these new products to ensure their long-term usefulness to the science community."

"Mercury is a planet of many mysteries," added Messenger Principal Investigator Sean Solomon. "With each increment of data, we have made discoveries that raised new questions. Finding answers to those questions requires further analysis. We hope that this latest release of Messenger data will induce more of our colleagues from the broader planetary science community to help us unravel the many stories that Mercury has yet to tell."

For an interactive map of Mercury's surface, follow this link.