September 29, 2009
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET):
Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
400 meters/pixel (0.25 miles/pixel)
This image is about 410 kilometers (250 miles) across
15,300 kilometers (9,500 miles)
This single NAC image, taken during MESSENGER's third Mercury flyby, captures examples of the multiple processes that have played important roles in shaping the geology of the planet's surface. Impact cratering has clearly been an influential process, and both old degraded craters and relatively young fresh craters can be spotted in this image. Near the center of the image is found a large, fresh crater with a smooth floor, central peak structures, terraced walls, and many associated small secondary craters and crater chains
. At the top of the image, smooth plains extend over a large area. Wrinkle ridges
are visible on the plains. Smooth plains are widespread on Mercury's surface
, and there is evidence that many of the smooth plains are volcanic in origin. In the lower left of this image, a scarp (cliff) can be seen cutting through a deformed impact crater. Numerous examples of similar relationships between scarps and craters
have been identified on Mercury's surface. It is thought that such scarps are the surface expressions of large faults that formed in Mercury's past as the planet's interior cooled
and the surface consequently contracted slightly. MESSENGER Science Team members are studying images like this one to decipher the story of Mercury's geology and its many different chapters.
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.