Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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First USGS Digital Topographic Map of Mercury Shows Entire Surface

Digital Mercury

(Photo : USGS) New USGS digital map of Mercury

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and partner organizations have released the first ever global topographic map of Mercury showing in high-resolution the first comprehensive view of the planet's entire surface. The digital map can be viewed here.

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Data for the digital map was derived from the MESSENGER spacecraft that orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015. It led to the production of the extremely detailed digital topographic map that illustrates elevation changes and landforms.

MESSENGER's cameras and instruments collected the extraordinary images during 4,104 orbits around Mercury. MESSENGER, which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, was the first spacecraft to orbit the planet.

The highly detailed map shows the planet's craters, volcanoes and tectonic landforms. To produce this map, scientists from USGS developed new and sophisticated software applications and procedures using the Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers (ISIS), a digital image processing software package. ISIS can manipulate imagery collected by current and past NASA and International planetary missions traveling throughout the Solar System.

Using ISIS, over 100,000 spacecraft images and photos detailing Mercury's landforms and features were combined to create the new digital map.

"The creation of this map is a prime example of the utility and beauty that can come out of overcoming complex cartographic problems," said Lazlo Kestay, USGS Astrogeology Science Center Director.

"This highly aesthetic product literally provides a whole new dimension to the study of Mercury images, opening many new paths to understanding the surface, interior, and past of the closest planet to the sun."

"The wealth of these data, greatly enhanced by the extension of MESSENGER's primary one-year mission to more than four years, has already enabled and will continue to enable exciting scientific discoveries about Mercury for decades to come," said Susan Ensor, software engineer at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Partnering with USGS were Arizona State University, Carnegie Institute of Washington, The John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA.

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