Sunday, September 29, 2013

MESSENGER Spacecraft Images One of the Youngest Large Craters on Mercury

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

This dramatic image features Hokusai in the foreground, famous for its extensive set of rays, some of which extend for over a thousand kilometers across Mercury's surface. The extensive, bright rays indicate that Hokusai is one of the youngest large craters on Mercury. Check out previously featured images to see high-resolution details of its central peaks, rim and ejecta blanket, and impact melt on its floor.

This image was acquired as part of MDIS's high-incidence-angle base map. The high-incidence-angle base map complements the surface morphology base map of MESSENGER's primary mission that was acquired under generally more moderate incidence angles. High incidence angles, achieved when the Sun is near the horizon, result in long shadows that accentuate the small-scale topography of geologic features. The high-incidence-angle base map was acquired with an average resolution of 200 meters/pixel.

Hokusai is a rayed impact crater on Mercury, which was discovered in 1991 by ground-based radar observations conducted at Goldstone Observatory. Hokusai is named after Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), a Japanese artist and printmaker of the Edo period. The name Hokusai was suggested by radar astronomer John K. Harmon. The crater has a diameter of about 100 km; the rays extend for thousands kilometers, covering much of the northern hemisphere.

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. During the first two years of orbital operations, MESSENGER acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015.

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