This color image, taken on May 1, 2013 by the Wide Angle Camera (WAC) instrument aboard NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft orbiting Mercury, features Hovnatanian crater, named for Armenian painter Hakop Hovnatanian. The crater’s elliptical shape and the bright rays’ butterfly pattern indicate that a very oblique impact produced the crater. The brightness of the rays indicate that they are relatively young features on Mercury’s surface.
This image was acquired as a targeted high-resolution 11-color image set. Acquiring 11-color targets is a new campaign that began in March, 2013 and that utilizes all of the camera’s 11 narrow-band color filters. Because of the large data volume involved, only features of special scientific interest are targeted for imaging in all 11 colors.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft’s seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the solar system’s innermost planet. MESSENGER has acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets, and is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015.
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington