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Behold, The First Full Map of Mercury

"Every square meter of Mercury's surface" in one gorgeous map

A black and white (left) and color (right) map of Mercury’s surface. Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

In the mid-1970s, the Mariner 10 spacecraft took a few passes by Mercury, snapping photos of the innermost planet. These disco-era images, says Space.com, only actually captured about half of the planet, but until recently, they were the best we’ve had.

Now, drawing on the observations of the Messenger satellite, which has been in orbit around Mercury since 2011, NASA put together the first full map of Mercury’s surface, a stunning vista of craters and smooth lava plains that looks more like the Moon than a planet. Space.com:

We can now say we have imaged every square meter of Mercury’s surface from orbit,” said Messenger principal investigator Sean Solomon of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. “Admittedly, some regions are in permanent shadow, but we’re actually peering into those shadows with our imaging systems.

In this video, which showcases NASA’s new map, the image has been color-coded to represent the different ages and chemical properties of Mercury’s surface, with younger rocks appearing brighter and than older rocks while old lava plains are tan.

The map as seen right now is more than big enough for a new desktop wallpaper, but NASA says that they will be releasing the full version of the map in the next few days. The Messenger satellite observations are so good that just one kilometer of Mercury’s surface is represented by one pixel in the full resolution image.

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More from Smithsonian.com:

MESSENGER Mission: Mysteries of Mercury Revealed

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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