Previous images hinted at unusual high-reflectance features associated with impact crater floors. High-resolution (21 m/pixel) monochrome images reveal these features to be rimless, irregular pits varying in size from hundreds of meters to up to several kilometers. These pits are often surrounded by diffuse halos of higher-reflectance material, and they are found associated with central peaks, peak rings, and rims of craters. The unusual etched appearance of these landforms may suggest a higher than expected volatile component in Mercury's crust, and their sharp features are consistent with a relatively young age. The mosaic shown here is centered at 44.0° N, 290.9° E.
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. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the key science questions that the MESSENGER mission is addressing.
Date Presented: June 16, 2011, at a NASA press conference
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
These images are from MESSENGER, a NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study of the innermost planet, Mercury. For information regarding the use of images, see the MESSENGER image use policy.