Mercury - in Color!
Mercury has a diameter of about 4880 km (3030 miles), and the smallest feature visible in this color image is about 10 km (6 miles) in size.
This image is the first high-resolution image of Mercury by a spacecraft in over 30 years, since the three Mercury flybys of Mariner 10 in 1974 and 1975.
MESSENGER's Wide Angle Camera (WAC), part of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), is equipped with 11 narrow-band color filters, in contrast to the two visible-light filters and one ultraviolet filter that were on Mariner 10's vidicon camera. By combining images taken through different filters in the visible and infrared, the MESSENGER data allow Mercury to be seen in a variety of high-resolution color views not previously possible. MESSENGER's eyes can see far beyond the color range of the human eye, and the colors seen in the accompanying image are somewhat different from what a human would see.
Image sequences acquired through the 11 different MDIS filters are being used to distinguish subtle color variations indicative of different rock types. By analyzing color differences across all 11 filters, the MESSENGER team is investigating the variety of mineral and rock types present on Mercury's surface. Such information will be key to addressing fundamental questions about how Mercury formed and evolved.
For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.
Last Update: 17 Aug 2011 (AMB)
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington