Astronomy Picture of the Day
April 30, 2013

Mercury (Part I)
Mercury (Part I)

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.

This extremely detailed and, in fact, really impressive view of the Planet Mercury was produced by using images from the Color Base Map Imaging Campaign that was carried out during the NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft's Primary Mission.


Young Rays, extending radially from (relatively) fresh Impact Craters, appear of a light gray or whitish color; the dark-gray and almost black-colored Regions and Areas are those Geologic Units of Mercury's Crust which are known as the "Low-Reflectance Material" (such as a Material that, according to the opinion of many Planetary Scientists, is thought to be rich in a dark and opaque Mineral). The brown and orange Regions are Plains that were formed, most likely, by the passage of Highly Fluid Lavas. The giant Caloris Impact Basin is the large, and very well visible, circular yellow-orangish Surface Feature located just near the upper right of center of the image (such as at abour one 'o clock of Mercury's disk).


We, as IPF, believe that the different colors of Mercury, as visible in this picture (which is an Ortographic Projection of the Innermost Planet in the Solar System), also can tell us something important about the age of the various Mercurian Regions and Areas. For instance, the almost black (or completely black) Areas and Spots, should be the ones which were more exposed to (and therefore that should have suffered for the longest time) the relentless action of the Charged Particles forming the Solar Wind and the Cosmic Rays. This means, in terms of age of these Areas and Spots, that the Surface Materials forming them should be the oldest ones that can be found on the Planet.


On the other hand, the Regions and Areas whose colors become less and less dark (and therefore we are talking about colors going from brown and dark orange, to yellow and, finally, to light gray or white) should be the ones that were less exposed to the so-called Cosmic Weathering, and this means, still in terms of age, that the Surface Materials that form them, should be the youngest ones present, today, on Mercury.


Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude:
Center Longitude: 140,00° East


This image (which is an Original NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft false color image-mosaic published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 16853) 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 outside, towards 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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