A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
NASA logo carnegie institution logo JHU APL logo

Why Mercury?
The Mission
News Center
Science Operations
Who We Are
Related Links

Download iPhone/iPad app Explore orbital data with quickmap Question and Answer End of Orbit Insertion Where is MESSENGER? Where is Mercury now? Subscribe to MESSENGER eNews

Extensive Smooth Plains on Mercury
Click on image to enlarge.
Extensive Smooth Plains on Mercury
Release Date: January 12, 2010
Topics: Mercury Flyby 3, NAC, Volcanism

Date Acquired: September 29, 2009
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 162744010
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Resolution: 410 meters/pixel (0.25 miles/pixel)
Scale: The bottom of this image is about 420 kilometers (260 miles) across
Spacecraft Altitude: 16,200 kilometers (10,100 miles)

Of Interest: This NAC image is of an area just to the north of a previously released image acquired during MESSENGER's third flyby of Mercury. Both that previously released image and this one show large areas of Mercury's surface that appear to have been flooded by lava. In this view, craters are visible that have been nearly filled with lava, leaving only traces of their circular rims. MESSENGER images have revealed that the smooth plains in this region of Mercury's surface are quite extensive, and MESSENGER Science Team members are currently updating maps of the smooth plains created after the mission's second Mercury flyby to include these new views obtained from Mercury flyby 3. After the Mariner 10 mission, there was some controversy concerning the extent to which volcanism had modified Mercury's surface. Now MESSENGER results, including color composite images, evidence for pyroclastic eruptions, and images of vast lava plains (such as shown here) have demonstrated that Mercury was indeed volcanically active in the past.

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.


   Top  | Contacts
© 1999-2015 by JHU/APL