Incredible ‘sideways’ look at Mercury’s limb

Nov 29, 2011 By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
A mosaic of nine oblique views from the MESSENGER spacecraft of Mercury's limb, looking towards the horizon. Click for larger, more amazing view. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Wow -- just wow! Here’s a unique, jaw-dropping, and beautiful look at Mercury from the MESSENGER spacecraft, in a mosaic created from nine images taken by the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS). The camera took a “sideways” or oblique view of Mercury’s limb, looking towards the horizon, providing a distinctive look at the rough terrain, ridges, craters and scarps of the Van Eyck Formation region, adjacent to the Caloris basin. Combining the images for a larger view not only provides a “you are there” feel, but it provides the science team with new ways to study Mercury’s geology.

Make sure you click on the image for a larger, even more amazing view. You can compare this image with a “straight-down” look of the same region, below.

Looking at any landscape in from different angles has a major impact on how terrain location and feature orientation is perceived, the MESSENGER science team explained in a detailed description of how this image was made. While single images that focus on one feature are wonderful for in-depth explorations, combining images together in a mosaic studying can provide regional or even global perspective. These mosaics are particularly important for understanding the geological context of a particular feature and for exploring ’s geologic history.

Correlation of features between the limb mosaic and an overhead view. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The Van Eyck region was formed by ejecta from the Caloris basin. Visible in the overhead view are “ghost craters” which are impact craters that were later buried by the voluminous volcanic lavas that form the plains in this part of Mercury. What appear as rough terrain and ridges in the oblique limb view show up as lineated, distinctive features from overhead. Both views provide clues to scientists about the processes or environment that the features formed.

The ejecta blanket of Caloris basin is to the lower left of the overhead-view.

The limb mosaic is just 9 of 75,000 images the NAC has taken and will continue to take during MESSENGER’s primary mission, which goes through March of 2012. These were taken in June of 2011, and the mosaic was released today by the imaging team.

Explore further: Image: Rainbow aurora captured from space station

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User comments : 5

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1 / 5 (8) Nov 29, 2011
Very interesting viewpoint. Amazing how large those craters are.

Now, has anyone wondered why there seems to be a deathly hush about the approximately 27% decrease in Mercury's magnetic field strength since the last Mariner fly-by?
Surely if it has a dynamo that shouldn't have happened?

REally lovely pictures....
4 / 5 (4) Nov 29, 2011
lol, kevin, you just keep adding prayer to shivering prayer and you'll get through this life clinging to your beliefs in the face of all the evidence against them. The rest of the world will ascend to ever greater insights without your misguided kind, good riddance too.
not rated yet Nov 30, 2011
geomagnetic decay is complex and erratic and cannot be extrapolated to give a date for the formation of Mercury, Earth or any other heavenly body. Unlike, say, radioactive decay which is predictable and useful for time measurements.
I refer you to CD701 on talkorigins.

I suggest from now on you do your own research before boring us with your tired disproven denialist apologetics.
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 01, 2011
Surely if it has a dynamo that shouldn't have happened?
Why not? You have it backwards. Dynamos can and will change as the fluid flow changes.

1 / 5 (4) Dec 01, 2011
Mercury is only beginning to give up its secrets.