Astronomy Picture of the Day
November 21, 2012

Mercurian Volcanic Regions
Mercurian Volcanic Regions

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.

Many Regions of Mercury's Surface show a relatively smooth and dark brown/reddish-colored Terrain (with almost black patches near and around the Rims of the major Impact Craters) that, in a way, appears to have "flooded" (---> quickly covered, either in whole or in part) low-lying Areas and, at the same time, which has also partially filled (and/or, here and there, almost completely buried) what seem to be the oldest Impact Craters existing on the Surface. Said that, we can reasonably speculate that these smooth Plains could have formed, in a very distant past of the Innermost Planet of the Solar System, as a consequence of the occurrence of some powerful Volcanic Activity which, in fact, ended up by - litterally - "drowning" these Regions with - and in - extremely voluminous amounts of, most likely, low-viscosity Basaltic Lavas.

Notice that the beautiful colors of the Mercurian Surface, as well as all the details of the Terrain seen here, all appear to be extremely clear, sharp and well visible, (also) thanks to to fact that the Sun, at the time that the picture was taken, was relatively high in the Sky (59,2° on the Local Horizon, to be exact).

Date acquired: July, 21st, 2012
Images Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 251402330, 251402350, and 251402334
Images ID: 2244264, 2244269, and 2244265
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 8,27° South
Center Longitude: 113,1° East
Scale: this scene is approx. 475 Km across

This picture (which is an Original NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft color frame published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 16428) has been additionally processed and then re-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 down, towards the Surface of 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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