Picasso, Pits (and other things that start with “P”)

P is for... Picasso crater!

The recently-named Picasso crater on Mercury, shown in the center of this image, is 83 miles wide and features an interestingly-shaped depression in its center that’s thought to have been caused by the collapse of a magma chamber beneath the surface. Features like this are important to planetary scientists because they indicate the existence of subsurface volcanic activity at some point in Mercury’s geologic past.

That it’s got a funny shape* is just coincidentally amusing. 🙂

View the official image release on the MESSENGER website here.

MESSENGER, launched in August of 2004, has since performed three flybys of our solar system’s innermost planet and will become the first spacecraft to enter orbit around Mercury in March of next year. MESSENGER has successfully mapped nearly 100% of Mercury’s surface and is providing unprecedented details about our smallest planetary neighbor.

Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

*I guess it kind of makes the crater look like a face too. If your sense of humor is more G-rated than mine.