With the “Curiousity Rover” the planet Mars has been at the forefront of NASA news, however, NASA recently gave Mercury a bit of a slot in primetime.
Releasing the first video ever showing the surface of the planet closest to the sun in detail, NASA is highlighting the work of the MESSENGER program, which began making observations of Mercury in 2011.
NASA officially announced mapping the surface of the planet back in March, but recently showcased the video of it on its Astronomy Picture of the Day.
NASA described the video as follows, which you may want to read before viewing the video as a reference:
For the first time, the entire surface of planet Mercury has been mapped. Detailed observations of the innermost planet’s surprising crust have been ongoing since the robotic MESSENGER spacecraft first passed Mercury in 2008 and began orbiting in 2011. Previously, much of the Mercury’s surface was unknown as it is too far for Earth-bound telescopes to see clearly, while the Mariner 10 flybys in the 1970s observed only about half. The above video is a compilation of thousands of images of Mercury rendered in exaggerated colors to better contrast different surface features. Visible on the rotating world are rays emanating from a northern impact that stretch across much of the planet, while about half-way through the video the light colored Caloris Basin rotates into view, a northern ancient impact feature that filled with lava. MESSENGER has now successfully completed its primary and first extended missions.
The video is the result of more than 160,000 images and other observations taken as part of the mission.