NASA unveils first global topographic model of Mercury

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has unveiled the first global digital elevation (topographic model) of Mercury.

The model was unveiled by NASA’s MESSENGER ((MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission.

Key facts

  • The MESSENGER mission shows stunning detail the topography across the entire innermost planet of our solar system.
  • The model was created using more than 100,000 images acquired by the MESSENGER mission.
  • These images were acquired with a large range of viewing illumination and geometries conditions, which help to determine the topography across Mercury’s surface.
  • The topographic model shows a variety of topographic features including the highest and lowest points on the planet.
  • The highest elevation on Mercury is at 4.48 kilometres above Mercury’s average elevation and is located just south of the equator in some of planet’s oldest terrain.
  • The new topographic map provides an unprecedented view of the region near Mercury’s North Pole which was earlier not available.
  • The new global topographic model complements an older product released by MESSENGER which was derived from earlier measurements by the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA).

About MESSENGER Mission

  • MESSENGER is a NASA’s robotic spacecraft that orbited the planet Mercury between 2011 and 2015.
  • It was launched in August 2004 to study Mercury’s chemical composition, geology, and magnetic field.
  • It had entered orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011, becoming the first spacecraft to do so. It had successfully completed its primary mission in 2012.
  • The MESSENGER mission has shared more than 10 terabytes of Mercury science data. It includes nearly 300,000 images, millions of spectra and numerous map products.

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Categories: Science and Technology Current Affairs - 2017

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