Detailed Close-Up of Mercury's Previously Unseen Surface
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NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft captured this image on January 14, 2008, during its closest approach to Mercury. The image reveals a variety of intriguing surface features, including craters as small as 300 yards across. The image also shows landscapes near Mercury’s equator on the side of the planet never before imaged by spacecraft. These highly detailed close-ups enable planetary geologists to study the processes that have shaped Mercury’s surface over the past 4 billion years. One of the highest and longest scarps cliffs yet seen on Mercury curves from the top center down across the right side of this image. Great forces in Mercury’s crust have thrust the terrain occupying the left two-thirds of the picture up and over the terrain to the right. An impact crater has subsequently destroyed a small part of the scarp near the top of the image. This image was taken from a distance of 3,600 miles from surface of the planet and shows a region approximately 100 miles across. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington