A peek at a pitch-black pit

Mar 20, 2012 by Jason Major, Universe Today
A dark, rimless pit crater within the crater Tolstoj on Mercury. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

MESSENGER captured this high-resolution image of an elongated pit crater within the floor of the 355-km (220-mile) -wide crater Tolstoj on Mercury on Jan. 11, 2012. The low angle of sun illumination puts the interior of the pit crater into deep shadow, making it appear bottomless.

Pit craters are not caused by impacts, but rather by the of the roof of an underground magma chamber. They are characterized by the lack of a rim or surrounding ejecta blankets, and are often not circular in shape.

Since the floor of Tolstoj crater is thought to have once been flooded by , a pit crater is not out of place here.

The presence of such craters on Mercury indicates past on Mercury contributing to the planet’s evolution.

Read more on the MESSENGER mission website here.

Explore further: Student science projects explode with rocket

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bright peaks, dark shadows

Feb 20, 2012

The 68-mile (109-km) -wide Amaral crater on Mercury reveals its brightly-tipped central peaks in this image, acquired by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft on Feb. 4, 2012. Long shadows are cast by the crater’s ...

Mercury down under

Feb 27, 2012

NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, about to wrap up its first full year in orbit around Mercury, captured this view of the planet’s heavily-cratered southern hemisphere on August 28, 2011. Because of its ...

The scars of impacts on Mars

Mar 04, 2011

ESA's Mars Express has returned new images of an elongated impact crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars. Located just south of the Huygens basin, it could have been carved out by a train of projectiles ...

Kuiper's color close-up

Feb 14, 2012

The pale-orange coloration around the 39-mile (62-km) -wide Kuiper crater on Mercury is evident in this image, a color composition made from targeted images acquired by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft on ...

Distal Rampart of Crater in Chryse Planitia

Nov 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Impact craters on Mars are kind of neat. Many of them look very different than impact craters seen on Earth's moon or Mercury. Fresh lunar and Mercurian craters have ejecta blankets that look ...

Recommended for you

An unmanned rocket exploded. So what?

2 hours ago

Sputnik was launched more than 50 years ago. Since then we have seen missions launched to Mercury, Mars and to all the planets within the solar system. We have sent a dozen men to the moon and many more to ...

NASA image: Sunrise from the International Space Station

3 hours ago

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman posted this image of a sunrise, captured from the International Space Station, to social media on Oct. 29, 2014. Wiseman wrote, "Not every day is easy. Yesterday was a tough one. ...

Copernicus operations secured until 2021

3 hours ago

In a landmark agreement for Europe's Copernicus programme, the European Commission and ESA have signed an Agreement of over €3 billion to manage and implement the Copernicus 'space component' between 2014 ...

Steering ESA satellites clear of space debris

3 hours ago

Improved collision warnings for its Earth observation missions means ESA controllers can now take more efficient evasive action when satellites are threatened by space junk.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
not rated yet Mar 20, 2012
Have they/will they open(ed) the f-stop and/or increased the exposure to bring out any detail in the shadow?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.