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Dynamic new 3D map brings smallest planet to life


Staff writers
February 16, 2013 — Probe beams back most detailed map yet of the closest planet to the sun.


The images show a much more dynamic world than previously thought. Courtesy: NASA.
The images show a much more dynamic world than previously thought. Courtesy: NASA.

New images beamed back to earth from Mercury by NASA's Messenger probe have brought the Solar System's smallest planet to colourful life.

A 3D colour globe of the nearest planet to our sun represents the surface in a myriad of colours.

While Mercury would actually look brown-grey to the eyes of an orbiting spaceman, each hue of the false-colour map represents a different type of surface feature. Orange areas, for example, are volcanic plains.

It's the most detailed map ever made of Mercury, which was one of the first planets to be visited by Earth probes. It was displayed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston last week.

The Messenger probe has been zipping around the inner solar system since it launched in 2004. It has performed flybys of the Earth, Venus and, finally, Mercury, where it took up a permanent orbit in 2011.

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