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Scientists take a closer look at the mysterious side of Mercury

Image of Mercury's dark side taken in August 1998 at the Mount Wilson Observatory and enhanced with imaging techniques by the Boston Museum of Science  

June 1, 2000
Web posted at: 12:18 p.m. EDT (1618 GMT)

(CNN) -- Scientists have produced sharp photos of an uncharted region of Mercury with imaging techniques described in a scientific journal this month.

Using new methods to sharpen ground-based pictures of Mercury, two teams of astronomers focused on an area that the Mariner 10 did not photograph during its 1974-75 mission.

Mariner 10 flew by Mercury three times, but the NASA spacecraft was only able to map about half of the surface.

The scientists took observations from the Mount Wilson Observatory and brought them into focus with sophisticated computer imaging techniques, according to two reports in the May issue of the Astronomical Journal.

The images show surface features on Mercury that resemble the bright craters and dark patches on the Earth's moon.

The authors of the first report, from the Boston Museum of Science and the University of Illinois at Urbana, said they detected what could be a large, previously unknown impact crater in the northern hemisphere.

The second report was prepared by a team from Boston University as part of a proposal for extended spectral imaging of Mercury's atmosphere.



RELATED STORIES:
Solar observatory films planet parade
May 8, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Boston Museum of Science: Mercury Images
Boston University Center for Space Physics

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