Photo: NASA/John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
We've posted about the Smiley Face crater on Mars, and now it's Mercury's turn. NASA spaceprobe Messenger discovered two things about Mercury: 1) it's a shrinking planet, and 2) it has an intriguing "spider" crater that is never before seen.
The first pictures from the unseen side of Mercury reveal the wrinkles of a shrinking, aging planet with scars from volcanic eruptions and a birthmark shaped like a spider.
Some of the 1,213 photos taken by NASA's Messenger probe and unveiled Wednesday help support the case that ancient volcanoes dot Mercury and that it is shrinking as it gets older, forming wrinkle-like ridges. But other images are surprising and puzzling.
The spidery shape captured in a photo is "unlike anything we've seen anywhere in the solar system," said mission chief scientist Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The image shows what looks like a large crater with faint lines radiating out from it.