The MESSENGER mission has released the first global digital elevation model (DEM) of Mercury, revealing in stunning detail the topography across the entire innermost planet and paving the way for scientists to characterize fully the planet’s geologic history.
The new product reveals a variety of interesting topographic features, as shown in the animation above, including the highest and lowest points on the planet. The highest elevation on Mercury is at 4.48 kilometers above Mercury’s average elevation, located just south of the equator in some of Mercury’s oldest terrain. The lowest elevation, at 5.38 kilometers below Mercury’s average, is found on the floor of Rachmaninoff basin, a basin suspected to host some of the most recent volcanic deposits on the planet.
More than 100,000 images were used to create the new model. During the orbital phase of the MESSENGER mission, images were acquired with a large range of viewing geometries and illumination conditions, which enabled the topography across Mercury’s surface to be determined.