Mercury Map Re-printed Due to High Demand!

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Our recently published image and topographic maps of Mercury (USGS SIM 3404) have been re-printed due to high demand! These maps were based on data products from the MESSENGER mission, the first mission to study the entire planet.

Maps like this are valued by scientists and the interested public, both as reference tools to provide global context for major features on the planet, and as wall art to decorate offices, classrooms, and homes.  

New Mercury map released by Astrogeology Science Center

The first map uses a global mosaic of images from the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) to show the what the planet looks like at 166 meters per pixel. The topographic map is based on two different digital elevation models (DEMs): the North Pole is based on data from the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) with a resolution of 500 meters per pixel, while the rest of the planet uses a DEM derived from MDIS stereo images with a resolution of 665 meters per pixel. Together, these produce a highly detailed topographic map, similar to the type of map used by hikers to illustrate elevation changes and landforms. Both map sheets break the planet into three parts, each with its own projection: South Pole Stereographic, North Pole Stereographic, and Mercator for the rest of the planet.


The maps are annotated with International Astronomical Union (IAU)-approved names for large features, plus a few important, smaller features such as Hun Kal (the official marker of 20 degrees west longitude) and features within Caloris Planitia being studied by MESSENGER team scientists.


A lot of thought goes into the colors used to represent elevation and relief on a map like this! After discussing several initial options with people here at Astrogeology, it became evident that pleasing everyone was an impossible task. So, at the 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, the top 10 color ramps were printed on a poster and left with a marker for attendees to vote for their favorite. The final color ramp was a slightly modified version of the top-voted option from the conference, and though there was no unanimous decision, there was a clear preference for warm tones. While the choice of colors is partly aesthetic, it is also practical: we wanted to be sure the colors used make the map readable for the most common types of color blindness.


The version of the topographic map available on the USGS Publications website is a layered PDF which allows the user to select either the same color ramp as the printed map, or the multi-color ramp used by the MESSENGER team.


Many thanks to the numerous people who worked to acquire, process and release these unprecedented data sets which are enjoyed by scientists and planetary enthusiasts alike!


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By Marc Hunter