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Plan Your Space Vacation with the First Ever Map of Mercury

Illustration for article titled Plan Your Space Vacation with the First Ever Map of Mercury

If you're planning a trip to Mercury, you'll need the first map ever released of the solar system's innermost planet, a mosaic of photos from the Mercury missions.

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The US Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center revealed the first map of Mercury this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting. The map is a composite of 917 images taken from various Mercury flybys. Photos from Messenger's flybys in January 2008, October 2008, and September 2009 account for 90.90 percent of the mosaic, with the rest provided by the Mariner 10 photos from the 1970s. The map is just shy of complete, covering about 97.72 percent of Mercury, but it's the closest thing we have to a complete map of Mercury.

Illustration for article titled Plan Your Space Vacation with the First Ever Map of Mercury
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[USGS Astrogeology via Wired]

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DISCUSSION

john-hazard-old
John Hazard

I would guess, unless we find something really valuable there, that Mercury will be the last planet in the Solar System we explore. Mars and Venus have atmospheres, the gas giants have hydrogen & helium (for fuel?) and lots of interesting moons. Mercury seems like it's just hot and barren, and all the light elements were probably burned away long ago. Then again, that whole light side/dark side thing is kind of cool. It would probably make a good place for a solar observatory.