The Colors of Mercury

Mercury in color
Color composite image of Mercury from MESSENGER

Another new wide-angle image from MESSENGER in orbit, this is a color image of Mercury made from data taken in red, green and blue visible light wavelengths. Variations in surface textures and colorations can be seen, as well as long bright streaks running horizontally  – these are the ejecta rays extending from Hokusai Crater, off-frame and to the right.

The view seen here has been cropped and rotated 90º clockwise from the original release. I also edited the image data a bit in Photoshop to increase detail.

While some of the variances seen here are due to natural colors of surface materials, some are also caused by differences in composition, particle size and texture, and exposure times of the images. Still, images like this show that Mercury’s surface really is covered in many subtle hues…it’s not “just” a grey cratered globe!

Read more about the MESSENGER mission here.

On March 17, 2011, MESSENGER became the first spacecraft ever to orbit the planet Mercury. The mission is currently in its commissioning phase, during which spacecraft and instrument performance are verified through a series of specially designed checkout activities. In the course of the one-year primary mission, the spacecraft’s seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation will unravel the history and evolution of the Solar System’s innermost planet.

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

Read on


  1. Ash says:

    That’s pretty surprising to see so many colors on Mercury’s surface. All these subtle hues make this desolated land a bit more “alive”. Such pictures are simply awesome!


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