PIA16419: Riddles in the Dark
Target Name: Mercury
Is a satellite of: Sol (our sun)
Mission: MESSENGER
Spacecraft: MESSENGER
Instrument: MDIS - Wide Angle
Product Size: 864 x 1009 pixels (width x height)
Produced By: Johns Hopkins University/APL
Full-Res TIFF: PIA16419.tif (872.9 kB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA16419.jpg (59.88 kB)

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Original Caption Released with Image:

The newly named Tolkien crater honors English author J.R.R. Tolkien, best known as the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The interior of Tolkien crater is an area of permanent shadow and is host to one of Mercury's largest radar-bright deposits. The bright feature inside of Tolkien is the crater's central peak, which towers high above the crater floor and is illuminated by sunlight. What precious secrets lie in the land of shadows within Tolkien crater? Some may be revealed by MESSENGER's suite of instruments. Others will remain hidden until discovered by a future fellowship.

This image was acquired as part of MDIS's high-incidence-angle base map. The high-incidence-angle base map is a major mapping activity in MESSENGER's extended mission and complements the surface morphology base map of MESSENGER's primary mission that was acquired under generally more moderate incidence angles. High incidence angles, achieved when the Sun is near the horizon, result in long shadows that accentuate the small-scale topography of geologic features. The high-incidence-angle base map is being acquired with an average resolution of 200 meters/pixel.

Date acquired: May 28, 2012
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 246705406
Image ID: 1910381
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 7 (748 nanometers)
Center Latitude: 88.73
Center Longitude: 155.9 E
Resolution: 175 meters/pixel
Scale: Tolkien is approximately 49 km (30 mi.) in diameter.
Incidence Angle: 88.8
Emission Angle: 47.4
Phase Angle: 136.2

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 acquired 88,746 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is now in a year-long extended mission, during which plans call for the acquisition of more than 80,000 additional images to support MESSENGER's science goals.

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.

Image Credit:
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Image Addition Date:
2012-10-05