MESSENGER's low-altitude campaign has enabled imaging of Fuller crater (named after American architect Buckminster Fuller) in greater detail than previously possible. The top left panel shows an image of Fuller, with the crater rim outlined in pink and the edge of a low-altitude broadband MDIS image in green. The large panel applies a different stretch to the same MDIS broadband image in the first panel, revealing details of the shadowed surface inside Fuller!
In particular, as highlighted with yellow arrows in the bottom left panel, the image reveals a region inside Fuller that is lower in reflectance. The edge of the low-reflectance region has a sharp and well-defined boundary, even when imaged at 46 m/pixel, suggesting that the low-reflectance material is sufficiently young to have preserved a sharp boundary against lateral mixing by impact cratering. Models for surface and near-surface temperature within Fuller crater predict a region that is sufficiently cold to host long-lived water ice beneath the surface but too hot to support water ice at the surface. The low-reflectance region revealed in the images matches the thermal characteristics expected for a lag deposit of volatile, organic-rich material that overlies the water ice.
This image was presented at a press event at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Visit the press event website to learn more!
Instrument: Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
WAC filter: 2 (700 nanometers)
Scale: Fuller crater, outlined in pink, has a diameter of 27 km (17 miles)
Fuller Center Latitude: 82.63°
Fuller Center Longitude: 317.35° 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. During the first two years of orbital operations, MESSENGER acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015.
For information regarding the use of images, see the MESSENGER image use policy.