Astronomy Picture of the Day
September 10, 2014

Smooth Mercurian Terrain
Smooth Mercurian Terrain

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 smooth, rolling Terrain visible in this High Resolution Image taken by the NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft on August, 4, 2014, looks (almost) like it is made of large Sand Dunes - or even Ripples - on a beach located on our Home-Planet Earth. But, in fact, the smooth texture of this area of Mercury is only due to the presence, on the pictured Mercurian Surface, of a relatively soft blanket made out of Pyroclastic Materials which - probably - came from a Volcanic Vent that is found about 85 km (such as about 52,785 miles) away, to the South of it.

To put the size of this image (which is about 6,1 Km - such as about 3,788 miles - across) into perspective, a "normal" human being could run the full length of this area in - most likely - just less than an hour (if it would be possible to breathe on Mercury, of course...).

Date acquired: August, 4th, 2014
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 49462358
Image ID: 6809127
InstrumentNarrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 38,03° North
Center Longitude: 63,23° East
Solar Incidence Angle (at center frame): 68,7° (meaning that the Sun, at the time that the pictures were taken, was about 21,3° above the imaged Local Mercurian Horizon)
Emission Angle (at center frame): 29,5° (meaning that the Spacecraft was far away from being - even just almost - perpendicular to the imaged Surface at the time when the picture was taken)
Sun-Mercury-Messenger (or "Phase") Angle (at center frame): 78,3°

This picture (which is an Original NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft's b/w and NON Map-Projected image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 18800) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, Gamma corrected, magnified to aid the visibility of the details 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 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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