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NASA releases new high-res images of Mercury's pockmarked surface

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High-res Mercury map (NASA)
High-res Mercury map (NASA)

NASA released a slew of new, high-resolution images of Mercury yesterday, offering unprecedented detail of the planet's crater-filled surface. Produced in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the images are based on data collected by the Messenger spacecraft, launched back in August 2004, and include both an eight-colour mosaic of the planet's entire surface and a higher-quality monochrome version, shown above.

The APL has made the images available on the Messenger site, but some — notably the full, 144MB colour mosaic — are currently throwing up a "Not Found" error. Thankfully, NASA is also hosting most of the major images through its Messenger QuickMap tool, which provides a map-style interface allowing users to zoom in and out. As well as the overall pictures, it's worth checking out Messenger's detailed images of Mercury's polar regions, which previous observations have shown to host ice and organic materials.