Mercurial cartography

With the cold weather really digging in for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, you may well be thinking of taking a holiday somewhere hot. Courtesy the US Geological Survey, you can now scout out the lay of the land on the hottest destination in the entire solar system, as their near-global maps of the planet Mercury are released to the public.

The map combines new observations from the Messenger spacecraft with earlier images captured by Mariner 10 in the 1970s.

Global Map of Mercury

Messenger completed the last of its three flybys of the planet on September 29th. The release of the map marks a new phase of the mission for the spacecraft, which will now orbit the sun’s innermost planet for a year.

The U.S. Geological Survey built the map from 917 images of variable resolution and lighting conditions, but sophisticated software was able to match up planetary features from different images to create the near seamless mosaic.

Click through on the image above (or here) to download various sized versions of the map – should make a nice wallpaper file, no?

If you don’t fancy Mercury (I’ve heard the food’s terrible, and the cost of bottled water is simply shocking), maybe a brief break in a space station as designed by Paolo Soleri might be more aesthetically appealing [via Tim Maly]? Granted, none of them have ever been built… but you’d have to admit they have a soupçon more je ne sais quoi than the utilitarian grace of the ISS, I’m sure. 😉