February 06, 2012
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET):
Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
7 (748 nanometers)
This image is 238 km (148 miles) wide from left corner to right corner.
This image, taken with the Wide Angle Camera (WAC)
, provides a master class in Mercury surface features and the geologic processes that formed them. The image shows a portion of Rachmaninoff
, a double-ring basin named for the early twentieth century Russian composer, pianist and conductor Sergei Rachmaninoff. In this region, we see the remnants of an inner peak ring, with hollows
dusting the tops of the peaks in both the inner and outer rings. Also visible is the basin's main rim scarp beginning in the left corner of the image and extending to the southeast. The crater floor contains a number of regions of high-reflectance material, as well as polygonal valleys called graben
(located near the top of the image, at the basin's center). Graben are formed by forces pulling apart the surface; these extensional forces are in contrast to the tectonic contraction we typically see all over Mercury and may be related to cooling of the smooth volcanic plains that cover the floor.
This image was acquired as a high-resolution targeted observation. Targeted observations are images of a small area on Mercury's surface at resolutions much higher than the 250-meter/pixel (820 feet/pixel) morphology base map or the 1-kilometer/pixel (0.6 miles/pixel) color base map. It is not possible to cover all of Mercury's surface at this high resolution during MESSENGER's one-year mission, but several areas of high scientific interest are generally imaged in this mode each week.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation
are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury?
section of this website to learn more about the key science questions that the MESSENGER mission is addressing. During the one-year primary mission, MDIS is scheduled to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER's science goals.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.