Hey. Do you know what that picture up there is? It’s a map of Mercury. Excuse me, it’s the first-ever map of the surface of the closest planet to the sun. Pretty amazing, right?
“We can now say we have imaged every square meter of Mercury’s surface from orbit,” the study’s principal investigator, Sean Solomon of Johns Hopkins’s Applied Physics Laboratory, told space.com. “Admittedly, some regions are in permanent shadow, but we’re actually peering into those shadows with our imaging systems.”
The images were taken by NASA’s Messenger spacecraft, the first craft to make a complete orbit of the planet. (The mission was helmed by scientists from the APL.) The map revealed all sorts of topography of interest to the kinds of people who are interested in space topography. For example: the planet had more volcanoes than anyone expected, and there are also these cool pockmarks dotting the surface.
Currently, scientists are hoping NASA will extend the Messenger’s mission for another two years. Whether they do or not, the space probe’s end will be the same: it’ll orbit until it runs out of fuel and then it’ll be unceremoniously crashed into Mercury’s surface, where it will rust, sad and alone, for eternity.