Because of the small axial tilt of Mercury's pole of rotation, several of the craters in this south polar image are shrouded in permanent shadow. Earth-based radar observations have found that these craters also host radar-bright material that is likely water ice. In the furthest southern portion of this image, the rim of the large crater Chao Meng-Fu rises from the darkness.
This image was acquired as part of MDIS's high-resolution surface morphology base map. The surface morphology base map covers more than 99% of Mercury's surface with an average resolution of 200 meters/pixel. Images acquired for the surface morphology base map typically are obtained at off-vertical Sun angles (i.e., high incidence angles) and have visible shadows so as to reveal clearly the topographic form of geologic features.
Date acquired: September 07, 2011
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 223925708
Image ID: 730957
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: -86.25°
Center Longitude: 303.9° E
Resolution: 268 meters/pixel
Scale: The image is 385 kilometers (239 miles) from corner to corner.
Incidence Angle: 87.9°
Emission Angle: 7.1°
Phase Angle: 80.8°
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.
For information regarding the use of images, see the MESSENGER image use policy.