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article imageColorful images of Mercury revealed

By Sean Fraser     Feb 16, 2013 in Science
Boston - Mercury is usually a planet that does not garner a whole lot of attention, but NASA recently revealed a new series of photos that shed some colorful light on the often ignored planet.
The new colored maps are comprised of thousands of images collected by NASA's Messenger probe, which was launched in 2004.
The probe's cameras have light filters that help the scientists distinguish between surface features and rock composition.
"Messenger's camera has filters that go from the blue to the near-infrared of the spectrum," said Dr. David Blewett, a mission scientist from the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. "We are able to use computer processing to enhance the very subtle but real color differences that are present on Mercury's surface."
New color maps of Mercury.
New color maps of Mercury.
The orange-colored areas are volcanic plains, while the deep blue patches indicate a high concentration of an unknown mineral. The light blue streaks indicate debris from impacts spraying over the surface.
The Messenger spacecraft first buzzed the little planet in 2008, and fell into its orbit in 2011, reports The Guardian. The probe has enough fuel to continue its mission until about 2015.
The probe's high resolution images revealed in 2012 that Mercury has polar ice caps made of water ice and a tar-like organic substance.
Blewett revealed the new color maps on Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Boston.
"We know now that it is an oddball planet," said Blewett at the AAAS meeting. "The interior structure is different than the other planets. The geologic surface is different to the moon and Mars. The surface composition is enigmatic because ... it consists of rock types that we don't have much experience with. It has a global, Earth-like magnetic field, Venus and Mars do not."
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