Astronomy Picture of the Day
September 25, 2014

Possible 'butterfly-shaped' Volcanic Vent
Possible 'butterfly-shaped' Volcanic Vent

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-mosaic of Mercury's Surface, made out of three frames obtained by the NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft on July, 11th, 2014, highlights what may be an old Volcanic Vent. Located just to the right (Dx) of center frame, within a brown-reddish patch of Terrain, you can see an irregularly shaped (and, as it appears from the bright Sunlight reflected by its Northern Wall, relatively deep) Surface Depression that is approx. 30 Km (such as about 18,63 miles) across and which, in this specific case, looks a bit like a "butterfly".

While most of these (for now, just "suspected") Mercurian Volcanic Vents are located within Impact Craters, the Butterfly-shaped Vent here is not clearly associated with any Impact Crater at all. Furthermore, it also appears that it may be older than other Volcanic Vents, resulting in more subdued details and colors.

Date acquired: July, 11th, 2014
Images Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 47381178, 47381170, 47381174
Images ID: 6661702, 6661700, 6661701
InstrumentWide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 32,08° North
Center Longitude: 21,71° East
Solar Incidence Angle (at center frame): 32,7° (meaning that the Sun, at the time that the pictures were taken, was about 57,3° above the imaged Local Mercurian Horizon)
Emission Angle (at center frame): 0,5° (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): 33,2°

This picture (which is an Original NASA - MESSENGER Spacecraft's false colors and Map-Projected image-mosaic published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 18721) has been additionally processed, contrast enhanced, Gamma corrected, magnified to aid the visibility of the details 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 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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