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Rays of Light Material
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Rays of Light Material
Release Date: December 13, 2011
Topics: Albedo Contrasts, Crater Rays

Date acquired: November 17, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 230018573
Image ID: 1023529
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: -51.0°
Center Longitude: 175.1° E
Resolution: 221 meters/pixel
Scale: The rayed crater is approximately 20 km (12 miles) in diameter
Incidence Angle: 53.1°
Emission Angle: 37.8°
Phase Angle: 78.6°

Of Interest: The ejecta of this fresh 20-km impact crater swept the surface, leaving beautiful bright rays. Crater rays fade with time as smaller impacts mix them into the surrounding soil and particles from the solar wind change the surface's chemistry. Given a little time (perhaps a million years or so), this crater will look like the other similar-sized craters in the frame.

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.


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