Planet Mercury Unmasked: Fantastic Photos Of Crazy New Discoveries

There are competing theories about Mercury’s formation. Physical models pictured here invoke one or more giant impacts (left) or the vaporization of surface by a hot solar nebula to remove the planet’s original crust and outer mantle. Image Credit: Left: NASA/JPL/Caltech; Right: Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature [473(7348):460–461, © 2011] (NASA)

This elevation map of the Beethoven Basin is color-coded to show the height of features on Mercruy’s surface. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

The surface in this image is located near the center of the large Caloris basin. Messenger’s orbital images are revealing a complicated set of tectonic features within the basin, many more than previously mapped. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

The orthographic views seen here, centered at 75° E longitude, are each mosaics of thousands of individual images taken by Messenger during a single solar day there, which lats for 176 Earth days. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

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