Astronomy Picture of the Day

Mercury in Accentuated Color

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Mercury in Accentuated Color

The colors of Mercury are subtle but beautiful.

At first glance, our
Solar System's
innermost planet appears simply
black and white,
but images that include
colors normally beyond human vision accentuate a world of detail.

One such image, shown above, was acquired by the robotic
MESSENGER spacecraft
that swung by Mercury in mid-January.

Here, most generally, the hot world itself acquires a slightly more brown hue.

Many craters that appear on top of other craters -- and so surely have formed more recently -- appear here as bright with bright rays that include a slightly blue tint, indicating that soil upended during the impact was light in color.

A few craters, such as some in the huge
Caloris Basin impact feature visible on the upper right, appear unexpectedly to be ringed with a dark material, the nature of which is being researched.

MESSENGER continues to glide through the inner Solar System and will pass
again this October and next September, before entering orbit around the desolate world in 2011.

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Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008

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