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Mercury Hokusai Rays

Image of Mercury Hokusai Rays
THE RAYS OF HOKUSAI: What is the source of the radiating streaks seen in this image of Mercury? It’s the impact crater Hokusai seen at the top of the frame, named for Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Its impressive ray system extends for as much as 1000km (600 miles). Such rays are formed when an impact excavates material from beneath the surface and throws it outward from the crater. Rays such as these fade over time as they are exposed to the harsh space environment. Craters with bright rays are thought to be relatively young because the rays are still visible. NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which entered Mercury’s orbit in March, 2011, will reveal the true extent of this ray system and much, much more about Mercury’s history. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
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