Astronomy Picture of the Day
September 23, 2014

Lobate Scarp and Unusually-looking Surface Texture
Lobate Scarp and Unusually-looking Surface Texture

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.

In and of itself, this image of a portion of a North-South-trending Lobate Scarp, situated midway between Firdousi Crater and Caravaggio Basin, is not particularly noteworthy. Look a little closer, however, and this little part of Mercury's Surface takes on a strange, pitted appearance. In fact, a number of shallow, teardrop-shaped Depressions occur throughout the image (which is about 21 Km - such as approx. 13,041 miles - across), aligned from the top-left to the bottom-right. This distinctive Surface Texture is likely caused by Rocky Debris thrown out by nearby Impacts (there is a Crater approx. 11 Km - such as about 6,83 miles - in diameter to the South/East that might be responsible, for example).

If so, then these small Depressions are effectively Secondary Impact Craters - but not quite like those we're used to seeing. The difference between these Depressions and what we normally think of Secondary Craters is likely due to size and shape: as the NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft gets closer to the Surface of Mercury, we shall be seeing more and more fascinating Surface Features at ever greater resolutions. What else will we see before MESSENGER's adventure ends? Only time will tell...

Date acquired: July, 31st, 2014
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 49172453
Image ID: 6788651
InstrumentNarrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 1,20° North
Center Longitude: 77,70° East
Solar Incidence Angle (at center frame): 77,1° (meaning that the Sun, at the time that the pictures were taken, was about 12,9° above the imaged Local Mercurian Horizon)
Emission Angle (at center frame): 1,9° (meaning that the Spacecraft was almost perpendicular to the imaged Surface at the time when the picture was taken)
Sun-Mercury-Messenger (or "Phase") Angle (at center frame): 78,9°

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 18716) 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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