This false-colour image of Mercury was made using data collected by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which was designed to study the planet’s surface and its very thin atmosphere. To learn more about the minerals and surface processes on the planet, the orbiter diligently collected spectral surface measurements after arriving on 17 March 2011.
These measurements were combined into a map showing the spectral properties of both broad terrains and small, distinct features such as pyroclastic vents and fresh craters can be studied. To accentuate the geological context of the spectral measurements, the MASCS data have been overlaid on a high-resolution monochrome mosaic of the planet’s surface to map the rugged landforms and spectral variations on Mercury’s surface.
MESSENGER was the first spacecraft to orbit the planet Mercury. Its mission ended in late April 2015 when it ran out of propellant and spiralled in to the surface of Mercury.
Related reading: Surface of Mercury formed within the planet