THE MOON AS AN IMPRESSIONIST PAINTING
The top image is a MASCS VIRS interpolated color composite of the craters Rachmaninoff (lower left) and Copland (upper right). The bottom image is a monochrome MDIS mosaic of the same area. In the VIRS image, red areas like Copland (C) are brighter than blue areas like Rachmaninoff (R). The very bright red region in-between is a suspected volcanic vent (V). The color differences revealed in the VIRS image reveal differences in the composition of the surface rocks, as well as varying degrees of exposure to space weathering in the harsh environment of Mercury.
The VIRS composite shows hundreds of individual footprints tracks (minimum 100-200 m across and 3-4 km long) taken from different directions and altitudes. In locations where multiple footprints cover the same area, the footprint with the best illumination for mineralogical interpretation (usually the lowest incidence angle where shadows are minimized) is used for making the map. In areas where footprints are sparse (separated by tens of km), observations are interpolated for complete coverage of the surface. In the MDIS mosaic, some brightness variations are due to tiling of images taken at different illuminations.
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. During the first two years of orbital operations, MESSENGER acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015.
We are NASA’s Planetary Science Division. Our hardworking robots explore the planets and more on the wild frontiers of our solar system.