Astronomy Picture of the Day
December 4, 2013

Extremely interesting Unnamed Impact Crater (CTX Frame)
Extremely interesting Unnamed Impact Crater (CTX Frame)

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 image, taken by the NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft in the early April of the AD 2012, shows us an Unnamed Impact Crater (approx. 70 Km - such as about 43,47 miles - in diamer) located in the vicinities of the better known Mercurian Impact Crater named "Matisse". This Unnamed Impact Crater, as you can see, shows a really bright Pyroclastic Deposit that covers most of its Floor (even though it appears to be more abundant on the Southern Side of the Floor itself) and two Arcuate Scallops on its Northern Wall. These Scallops are the product of massive Landslides that took place when the oversteepened Crater Wall collapsed, for reasons which are so far unknown, but that we can imagine: think, for instance, about a powerful Seismic Wave or, maybe, about a still very intense Shock Wave caused by another Impact which occurred not too far away from this Crater. However, and according to NASA's Planetary Scientists, the ultimate cause of the Collapse might be the Topography of the area where the Crater formed: as a matter of fact, the Northern Portion of it formed right on the Outer Wall of the aforementioned Matisse Crater.


Furthermore - and just out of scientific curiosity -, we, as IPF, also wish to draw to your attention a Surface Detail that (strangely) has been completely "missed" (or maybe ignored, who knows...) by the NASA Scientists. So, if you look towards the Southern Portion of the Crater, just on its Rim, at about 7 o'clock, you will be able to notice the presence of many Rocky Debris (having conspicuous dimensions), which are surrounded by some very dark (almost black) Terrain, and followed by a Dark (black, in fact) Streak that seems to end (but we are not sure of this specific circumstance) towards the South-Western Quadrant of the frame (lower left - Sx - corner).


This intriguing Surface Detail, in our opinion, is the evidence of a relatively recent (probably VERY recent) Impact Event, where the Impactor (that we believe to be small in size and relatively fragile in its chemical/mineralogical composition) hit the Surface of Mercury according to an extremely oblique angle (and falling on a North-East-to-South-West trajectory), which caused the "Cosmic Projectile" first to hit the Rim of this Unnamed Impact Crater (and thus causing the damage that will be better seen in tomorrow's EDM), and then, after a partial (and, likely, almost complete) disintegration, to continue its course towards the South/West of this area (following a long and, for a while, Surface-grazing Fall that was the cause of the Dark Streak that we can now see on the Surface).


If you look carefully, you will be able to perfectly see the disrupted Outer Rim of this Unnamed Impact Crater, the black Terrain that lies all around it as well as the Rocky Debris - whose physical configuration perfectly suggests/indicates the direction of the incoming Projectile - and, last but not least, the black Streak that marked the Surface and which proceeds towards the South/Western side of this Region.


Date acquired: April, 5th, 2012
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 242124773
Image ID: 1609270
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 22,85° South
Center Longitude: 267,30° East
Solar Incidence Angle: 40,8° (meaning that the Sun, at the time that the picture was taken, was about 49,2° above the imaged Local Mercurian Horizon)
Emission Angle: 30,0°
Sun-Mercury-Messenger (or "Phase") Angle: 70,8°


This frame (which is an Original NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft's b/w and Map-Projected image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 17745) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, magnified to aid the visibility of the details, Gamma corrected 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 down, towards the Mercurian Impact Crater "Hopper"), 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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