Astronomy Picture of the Day
May 24, 2013

Balanchine Crater (Part I)
Balanchine Crater (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.

The Impact Crater located at the center of this scene (such as the one whose Floor is largely covered by extremely bright - and therefore, here, slightly over-exposed - Hollows) has been named "Balanchine", after the choreographer George Balanchine (Leningrad, 1904/New York City - NY - 1983). Now, if you carefully take a look at the Ejecta Blanket which emanates from Balanchine Crater, you may ask yourself what could have caused such an Asymmetric Pattern. Obviously, an absolutely definitive answer to this kind of question, as you should know, cannot be given by anybody, but one reasonable possibility is that the irregularly shaped Ejecta Pattern of Balanchine Crater formed (maybe just in part) on top of a similarly sized, and, of course, pre-existing, Impact Crater.

In this scenario, the older Impact Crater could have unearthed the Lower Reflectance dark-gray Deposit (as a matter of fact, in Absolute Natural Colors this Material looks almost black - blue in the Original NASA false color image-mosaic) from beneath the Surface, while, some time (perhaps a few millions of years) afterwards, a certain portion of them was (unevenly) redistributed all over the Mercurian Surface by the impact that formed Balanchine.

The Cracks that are well visible in the lower left (Sx) quadrant of the mosaic, on the other hand, are part of the Complex System of Graben that cuts the Floor of the giant Caloris Basin, in which Balanchine Crater is located. North is up.

Date acquired: June 29th, 2011
Images Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 217863931, 217863927, 217863923
Images ID: 441964, 441963, 441962
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 39,05° North
Center Longitude: 175,80° East
Resolution: 282 meters/pixel
Solar Incidence Angle: 39,6° (meaning that the Sun, at the time that the picture was taken, was about 50,4° above the imaged Local Mercurian Horizon)
Emission Angle: 6,3°
Sun-Mercury-Messenger (or "Phase") Angle: 40,9°

This picture (which is an Original NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft Map Projected false color image-mosaic published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 17057) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified 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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