Mercury is the most miniature planet in the Solar System and the nearest to the Sun. Its orbit around the Sun takes almost 88 Earth days, the shortest of all the Sun’s planets.
Mercury’s surface looks massively cratered and is alike in appearance to the Moon’s, showing that it has been geologically inactive for billions of years.
Two satellites have visited Mercury: Mariner 10 (1973) and MESSENGER (2004).
First global topographic model of Mercury
The MESSENGER mission has released the first global digital elevation model (DEM) of Mercury, revealing in stunning detail the topography across the entire innermost planet and paving the way for scientists to characterize the planet’s geologic history fully.
The new product reveals various interesting topographic features, as shown in the animation above, including the highest and lowest points on the planet. The highest elevation on Mercury is 4.48 kilometers above Mercury’s average elevation, located just south of the equator in some of Mercury’s oldest terrain. At 5.38 kilometers below Mercury’s average, the lowest elevation is found on the floor of the Rachmaninoff basin, and a basin suspected to host some of the most recent volcanic deposits on the planet. Below the topographic map of Mercury created by Hargitai Henrik.
More than 100,000 images were used to create the new model. During the orbital phase of the MESSENGER mission, images were acquired with a large range of viewing geometries and illumination conditions, which enabled the topography across Mercury’s surface to be determined.
3D map of planet Mercury
Melowntech created a magnificent interactive map based on the topographic model of Mercury created from images collected by the Messenger mission’s MDIS instrument between March 2011 and April 2015.