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Debussy and Its Hundreds of Miles of Rays

Thursday 2 September 2010

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/CIW

Mission: MESSENGER

Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera of the Mercury Dual Imaging System.

This central-peak crater naturally draws attention because of its prominent rays, which extend hundreds of kilometers across the planet. Until receiving its official name of Debussy in March 2010, this crater had been known only as “feature A” in Earth-based radar images of Mercury. Debussy’s extensive system of rays makes it a prominent, bright feature on Mercury’s surface at both visible and radar wavelengths, and it was identified from early Earth-based radar observations long before the collection of spacecraft images of the crater. Appropriately, radar astronomer John K. Harmon was involved in proposing the name Debussy, as well as the name Hokusai for another spectacularly rayed crater discovered by radar. This crater’s name honors Claude Debussy (1862-1918), a French composer. The first spacecraft images of Debussy were obtained during MESSENGER’s second flyby of Mercury, revealing Debussy and its hundreds of miles of rays in unprecedented detail.

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