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Created by the MESSENGER mission team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, this animation gives us a look at the spinning globe of Mercury, its surface color-coded to reflect variations in surface material reflectance.
Thousands of Wide Angle Camera images of Mercury’s surface were stitched together to create the full-planet views.
While the vibrant colors don’t accurately portray Mercury as our eyes would see it, they are valuable to scientists as they highlight the many different types of materials that make up the planet’s surface. Young crater rays surrounding fresh impact craters appear light blue or white. Medium- and dark-blue “low-reflectance material” (LRM) areas are thought to be rich in a dark, opaque mineral. Tan areas are plains formed by eruption of highly fluid lavas. Small orange spots are materials deposited by explosive volcanic eruptions.
At this point, over 99% of the Solar System’s innermost planet has been mapped by MESSENGER. Read more about the ongoing mission here.
Image/video credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington