February 25, 2013, 3:12 PM —
Image credit: Flickr/NASA GODDARD PHOTO AND VIDEO
Here we are spending billions of dollars to eventually send people to Mars -- well-known as a cold, barren planet populated only by rodents -- when there's a much more inviting destination almost as close by in our solar system.
Inviting, at least, if you watch this new NASA video (below) of Mercury, which portrays the planet closest to our sun as a colorful, twinkling marble spinning in space with what appear to be deep blue oceans covering most of the surface. Sign me up!
Trouble is, it's all a mirage (of sorts). Mercury's surface in real life is about as inviting as the moon's. Plus temperatures on Mercury can reach temperatures as low as -280 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 800 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it a tough call on whether to pack a sweater.
So how'd NASA get this video? By putting together thousands of images taken by the agency's Messenger spacecraft, which launched in 2004 and went into orbit around Mercury in 2011. NASA created a color base map to "enhance the chemical, mineralogical, and physical differences between the rocks that make up Mercury's surface," as Space.com explains.
For example, NASA scientists say, "Young crater rays, arrayed radially around fresh impact craters, appear light blue or white."
Check out the video. It's pretty cool.