Mercury's north polar region contains an expansive area of volcanic smooth plains. The stark image shown here is actually located in that "smooth" plains region! At this high northern latitude, the Sun is always low on the horizon, resulting in high incidence angles and long shadows that accentuate the topography and texture of the surface.
This image was acquired as part of MDIS's high-resolution surface morphology base map. The surface morphology base map will cover more than 90% of Mercury's surface with an average resolution of 250 meters/pixel (0.16 miles/pixel or 820 feet/pixel). Images acquired for the surface morphology base map typically have off-vertical Sun angles (i.e., high incidence angles) and visible shadows so as to reveal clearly the topographic form of geologic features.
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. During the one-year primary mission, MDIS is scheduled to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER's science goals.
Date acquired: December 13, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 232288831
Image ID: 1132340
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
Center Latitude: 85.57°
Center Longitude: 255.9° E
Resolution: 68 meters/pixel
Scale: The height of this image is about 70 kilometers (43 miles)
Center Incidence Angle: 88.9°
Center Emission Angle: 45.8°
Center Phase Angle: 134.7°
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.