Astronomy Picture of the Day
October 10, 2012

Dramatic Albedo Change on the Surface of Mercury
Dramatic Albedo Change on the Surface of Mercury

Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington and Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF for the additional process. and color.

In this frame, taken by the NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft in the month of June of the AD 2011, a distinct Albedo Difference that separates lighter, smoother Ground in the North, from darker, (and possibly) older Terrain in the South can be seen. This contrast of Surface Texture, color and Albedo is, as you can easily understand, a clear indication of a substantial Compositional Difference between the two Terrains. However, although - and at first glance - this (somehow peculiar) Configuration of the Surface may seem kind of angular, we believe that the clear change in Albedo and Texture of the Terrain is just a sign of the presence, on the Surface, of the Edge (---> Rim) of an extremely old and degraded Impact Basin (---> Crater).

Date acquired: June, 21st, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 217183900
Image ID: 409241
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
Center Latitude: 30,53° North
Center Longitude: 226,2° East
Resolution: 343 meters/pixel
Scale: the diagonal length of this image is about 500 km (such as approx. 310 miles) across
Solar Incidence Angle: 54,3° (meaning that the Sun, at the time that the picture was taken, was about 35,7° above the imaged Local Mercurian Horizon)
Emission Angle: 0,3°
Sun-Mercury-Messenger (or "Phase") Angle: 54,1°

This frame (which is an Original NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft b/w image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 14465) has been additionally processed and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the Surface of the Planet Mercury), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among other things, the existence of different Elements (Minerals) present on the Surface of Mercury, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

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