If you have not arrived in time to contemplate the Mercury TransitDo not worry, we offer you something better.
Well, it depends on the eye you look at. In this case, what NASA has achieved is to create a map of Mercury with impressive images that let us see the trace of its violent volcanic past. And all this thanks to the global model of digital elevation or DEM, which allows us to see the ancient surface of the planet, including the southern hemisphere, a mystery until now.
As some of you already imagine, this would not have been possible without the help of the famous MESSENGER mission, started last year 2011 and whose main probe crashed on this small and little explored planet last year 2015. And, although it completed 4,104 orbits around the planet, the probe had not yet obtained a map of Mercury because of the irregular and oval trajectory of its orbit.
Mercury map is a reality thanks to MESSENGER
Despite the unexpected end of MESSENGER following the impact of the probe against Mercury, the researchers have managed to extract data from the mission, including the highly detailed topographic images we are talking about today.
In total, they have been compiled more than 10,000 images to create the current map of Mercury and its new digital topography model, in which you can see a large number of volcanoes and craters never seen before, in addition to other interesting geographical features of the small planet.
There is a particularly striking area, in the Rachmaninoff basin, which apparently was about 5 km below the average elevation of the planet, being the lowest point on the entire surface. In this area, the researchers believe, would be some of the most recent volcanic deposits on the planet.
Mercury’s volcanic past
One of the points where there seemed to be the most volcanic activity in the past is the north pole of Mercury, where the activity has already stopped, leaving a striking yellow color. As you can see in the image, you can see up to the last crankcase, ridge and pyroclastic deposits in the area in high resolution.
NASA now plans to use all the data to reconstruct Mercury’s geological history, unlike any other planet known so far. They are around 10 terabytes of data, with 300,000 images, maps and interactive tools for public use.
The MESSENGER probe crashed, but his legacy lives on.