3D Mercury crater

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Dec. 15 2008 9:30 AM

3D Mercury crater

I'm going through my list of space images taken this year to prepare for my opus Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2008 (patience: it's coming soon). I have found some awesome shots, of course! While going through the fantastic images of tiny Mercury taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft, I found this one I hadn't seen before: a crater anaglyph!

Beagle Rupes, a scarp cutting across a crater on Mercury.

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That is too cool! Beagle Rupes is a fault scarp, a cliff created by a fault line. It cuts right across the crater Sveinsdóttir, an elongated impact probably due to a very low-angle collision by an asteroid or comet on the planet's surface. The crater is 600 km long, which is incredible. The fault obviously happened later, splitting the crater in two.

There aren't too many Mercury anaglyphs (unlike Mars), but just you wait until 2011, when MESSENGER settles into orbit around the solar system's smallest planet. Then we'll get a ton of pictures like this one, and the amount we'll learn about Mercury will be phenomenal.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies!