MESSENGER reveals Mercury’s colors

Apr 23, 2012 by Jason Major, Universe Today
MESSENGER image of Mercury, acquired with its Wide Angle Camera on March 21, 2012.

The subtle yet surprisingly varied colors of Mercury are revealed in the latest images from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, now in its extended mission and second year in orbit.

The image above, a composite of Wide Angle Camera acquired in 996, 748 and 433 nanometers for red, green and blue, shows a semi-lit limb of Mercury with the bright rayed crater Debussy visible at left. (The image has been rotated 180 degrees from the original, and color saturation was boosted by 25%.)

Named for the French composer Claude Debussy of “Claire de Lune” fame, the crater itself is approximately 50 miles (80 km) wide. It was first detected by ground-based radar telescopes in 1969 as a bright spot.

Now, 43 years later, we have a spacecraft in orbit sending back images like this. Amazing.

Sinusoidal equal area projection map of Mercury from MESSENGER's VIRS instrument.

The various colors seen across Mercury are due to different mineral compositions of the geologic regions. The exact compositions are not yet known, and the current puzzle that researchers are trying to solve with MESSENGER is to figure out what materials make up Mercury’s complex, multi-hued surface. That will also give a clue as to what’s inside the planet and how it evolved… as well as how it is currently evolving today.

The image below is from MESSENGER’s Visual and Infrared Spectrograph (VIRS) and shows a map of Mercury’s surface, with RGB colors corresponding to different mineralogical compositions.

Younger surface materials that are brighter at visible wavelengths and less affected by space weathering show up in reds, yellows and greens. Materials that may have relatively higher iron contents show up in blue.

These are ’s “other ”… maybe not what we would see with our own eyes, but beautiful nonetheless to planetary scientists!

See the above image on the website here.

Explore further: Venus Express spacecraft, low on fuel, does delicate dance above doom below

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 ...

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 ...

More 'hollowed ground' on Mercury

Jan 05, 2012

The latest featured image from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, soon to complete its first year in orbit around Mercury, shows the central peak of the 78-mile (138-km) – wide crater Eminescu surrounded ...

MESSENGER gets it Donne

Apr 09, 2012

Named after the 17th-century metaphysical poet, Mercury’s Donne crater was captured in this image by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. The 53-mile (83-km) -wide crater features a large, rounded central ...

MESSENGER Returns Images from Oct. 6 Mercury Fly-By

Oct 07, 2008

MESSENGER is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to the sun. On Oct. 6, 2008, at roughly 4:40 a.m. ET, MESSENGER flew by Mercury for the second time this year. During the encounter, the probe ...

Recommended for you

Orion on track at T MINUS 1 Week to first blastoff

19 hours ago

At T MINUS 1 Week on this Thanksgiving Holiday, all launch processing events remain on track for the first blast off of NASA's new Orion crew vehicle on Dec. 4, 2014 which marks the first step on the long ...

Bad weather delays Japan asteroid probe lift off

Nov 28, 2014

Bad weather will delay the launch of a Japanese space probe on a six-year mission to mine a distant asteroid, just weeks after a European spacecraft's historic landing on a comet captivated the world.

Manchester scientists boost NASA's missions to Mars

Nov 27, 2014

Computer Scientists from The University of Manchester have boosted NASA space missions by pioneering a global project to develop programs that efficiently test and control NASA spacecraft.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

katesisco
1 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2012
Whatever the makeup is it occurred with alternating pressure and release. This is the way the samuri swords and the famous Toledo steel were created: heating and pressure (hammering)

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.