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Temperature map of Mercury made from radio observ.

Temperature map of Mercury made from radio observ.

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Credit

DR MICHAEL J. LEDLOW / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR MICHAEL J. LEDLOW / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

False-colour temperature map of Mercury, made from radio observations at the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope, New Mexico USA. The colours show temperature just below the planet's surface, red indicating the highest temperature of 400 Kelvin. The map clearly shows one of the temperature 'poles' on Mercury's equator (left), caused by the intense heating of the surface by the nearby Sun. This is accentuated by Mercury's spin-orbit coupling, in which it rotates only three times in the course of two solar orbits. The far 'pole' is hidden, but may be deduced by the heating seen at the right edge of the disc. The observations for this image were made at 2cm wavelength.

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