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Topographic Map of Mercury Compiled From Over 100K Satellite Images

Topographic Map of Mercury Compiled From Over 100K Satellite Images
(USGS)

By    |   Wednesday, 11 May 2016 09:42 AM EDT

Researchers have released the first topographic map of Mercury, detailing the planet's craters, volcanoes, and landforms, the U.S. Geological Survey announced Friday.

The map was created with more than 100,000 images gathered from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, which orbited Mercury more than 4,000 times beginning in 2011. It was produced through a collaboration of NASA, Arizona State University, Carnegie Institute of Washington, and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

"Production of the digital elevation model of Mercury is the capstone of a significant scientific achievement of the MESSENGER mission," Ralph McNutt, MESSENGER team member and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory scientist, said in a news release. "This product reveals the entirety of the innermost planet of the solar system."

The map was created with a new software-based technique, developed by the USGS to overcome challenges to matching images taken from different locations with varying angles to the sun.

The effort will help scientists map other planets and moons as well as asteroids and comets.

MESSENGER launched in August 2004 and traveled 4.9 billion miles before being placed into orbit around Mercury.

Its voyage "surpassed expectations and ended with its descent and impact onto the surface on April 30, 2015," USGS said.

The map details Mercury’s highest elevation, just south of the equator at about 2.5 miles above the planet’s average elevation, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The planet's lowest point, at about 3 miles below average elevation, is located in the Rachmaninoff’s basin.

The map is the 15th and last major data release from the MESSENGER program, according to a news release.

“The wealth of these data, greatly enhanced by the extension of MESSENGER’s primary one-year orbital mission to more than four years, has already enabled and will continue to enable exciting scientific discoveries about Mercury for decades to come,” said Susan Ensor, a software engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory who has managed the MESSENGER Science Operations Center.

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TheWire
Researchers have released the first topographic map of Mercury, detailing the planet's craters, volcanoes, and landforms, the U.S. Geological Survey announced Friday.
topographic, map, mercury
325
2016-42-11
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 09:42 AM
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