Special Reports

Laser Altimeter Observations from MESSENGER's First Mercury Flyby

Science  04 Jul 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5885, pp. 77-79
DOI: 10.1126/science.1159086

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Abstract

A 3200-kilometers-long profile of Mercury by the Mercury Laser Altimeter on the MESSENGER spacecraft spans ∼20% of the near-equatorial region of the planet. Topography along the profile is characterized by a 5.2-kilometer dynamic range and 930-meter root-mean-square roughness. At long wavelengths, topography slopes eastward by 0.02°, implying a variation of equatorial shape that is at least partially compensated. Sampled craters on Mercury are shallower than their counterparts on the Moon, at least in part the result of Mercury's higher gravity. Crater floors vary in roughness and slope, implying complex modification over a range of length scales.

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