PIA19206: Punctuated Equilibrium

Punctuated Equilibrium


From a distance, this hummocky terrain a few hundred km south of the boundary of Mercury's northern plains appears rough but homogeneous. As MESSENGER skims closer and closer to the surface , increasingly higher-resolution images present a new view. At this scale, the majority of the surface appears to be covered with smooth, rolling hills, punctuated by a few clusters of younger small craters.

This image was acquired as part of the MDIS low-altitude imaging campaign. During MESSENGER's second extended mission, the spacecraft makes a progressively closer approach to Mercury's surface than at any previous point in the mission, enabling the acquisition of high-spatial-resolution data. For spacecraft altitudes below 350 kilometers, NAC images are acquired with pixel scales ranging from 20 meters to as little as 2 meters.

Date acquired: January 12, 2015
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 63346840
Image ID: 7779880
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 62.80°
Center Longitude: 320.9° E
Resolution: 13 meters/pixel
Scale: This image is ~20 km (12.5 mi.) from corner to corner.
Incidence Angle: 69.7°
Emission Angle: 20.2°
Phase Angle: 90.0°

Background Info:

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.

For information regarding the use of images, see the MESSENGER image use policy .

Cataloging Keywords:

Name Value Additional Values
Target Mercury
Target Type Planet
Instrument Host MESSENGER
Host Type Orbiter
Instrument Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Detector Narrow Angle Camera (NAC)
Extra Keywords Crater, Grayscale, Radio
Acquisition Date
Release Date 2015-02-18
Date in Caption 2015-01-12
Image Credit NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Source photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19206
Identifier PIA19206