From New Scientist: “First global Mercury map shows its hills and valleys in detail”

Science Springs

NewScientist

New Scientist

May 2016
Lisa Grossman

1
Mountains and valleys mapped NASA/U.S. Geological Survey/Arizona State University/Carnegie Institution of Washington/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

The innermost planet is ready for its close-up. The team behind NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury has released the first global topographic map of the small, cratered world – just in time for its biggest show of the decade.

NASA/Messenger satellite
NASA/Messenger satellite

MESSENGER orbited Mercury from 2011 until 2015, and took more than 10 terabytes of data, including 300,000 images and millions of spectra. A laser altimeter measured the heights of hills and depths of craters, but because the spacecraft had a highly eccentric orbit, this was not possible for the southern hemisphere.

Now, the team have combined more than 100,000 images to create a model of the whole planet’s topography. It includes the highest point – 4.48 kilometres above average elevation, located south of the equator in…

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