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Once you realize what this Cassini image is showing, you’ll love it.

Go ahead, take a look. Let it sink in…..waaaait for it…… there. I told you.

Still wondering what it is you’re looking at? That’s ok, you’ll love it even after I tell you.
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Mercury’s “Smooth” Plains

MESSENGER image of Mercury's "smooth" north polar region

Mercury has a vast region of smooth volcanic plains surrounding its northern polar region, wrapping over a third of the way around the planet. But even though the plains are called smooth, they are still characteristically rugged – made obvious in this narrow-angle camera image from MESSEGER acquired December 13.

Being an area close to Mercury’s pole, the incidence angle of sunlight highlights every crater, ridge and rise… showing that “smooth” on Mercury is definitely a relative term!

This image shows an area about 43 miles (70 km) across. Read more on the MESSENGER website here.

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

Moon Noir

Helene's just hanging out...

Here’s another intriguing look at Helene, lit by sunlight from the right while some reflected light from its own highlands illuminates the interior of a valley/crater. Its dark side appears pitch black against the slightly brighter region of space behind, possibly lightened by the diffuse reflected light from ice particles in Saturn orbit.

This is from a raw image acquired by Cassini as it was approaching Helene on June 18, 2011. For more information on that flyby, see my previous post.

I brightened the image a bit so it would be more visible on most monitors, and added a layer to give a slight glow effect from the sunlit area. I also had to clean up some CCD noise and artifacting around the edges of the moon. The original downlink can be seen here.

Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI. Edited by J. Major.

Look Inside a Lunar Crater

LROC narrow-angle camera image of a boulder-coated crater on the Moon

The crater shown above is located in the lunar highlands and is filled with and surrounded by boulders of all sizes and shapes. It is approximately 550 meters (1800 feet) wide yet is still considered a small crater, and could have been caused by either a direct impact by a meteorite or by an ejected bit of material from another impact. Scientists studying the Moon attempt to figure out how small craters like this were formed by their shapes and the material seen around them, although sometimes the same results can be achieved by different events…

Read the rest of this article on Universe Today

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University. (Edited by J. Major.)

Rocky Shadows

Chaotic debris within Necho crater on the Moon

Piles of boulders cast long shadows in the floor of the 18.6-mile (30 km) wide Necho crater on our moon. This dramatically-lit image from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) shows the final result of a large impact on the lunar surface, and gives a nice example of some of the rugged terrain that can be found there. For an idea of scale, the largest boulder in the upper right portion is nearly 300 feet long; it would pretty much cover a US football field.

A trail of boulders in Necho crater. NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

Read more about this image on the LROC imaging site hosted by Arizona State University. (And for a zoomable look around Necho crater click here!)

Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

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