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What does the surface of Mercury look like? What color is it (I have seen some images portraying it grey and some a light brownish color), and would the surface be dusty like the Moon, smooth, or even cracked (e.g. see image below) due to thermal expansion and contraction? mud cracks

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    $\begingroup$ The image above is dried mud which leads to considerable cracking, but that's not thermal cracking, it's dehydration. I don't want to make this an answer as I'm just quoting a study that I haven't read through, but thermal expansion has been observed on Mercury and Mars too. Less so on the Moon because (it says) the Moon was very hot when it formed. The article is quite old, so there may be better information available. adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1976LPSC....7.3229S $\endgroup$ – userLTK Feb 20 at 7:25
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The MESSENGER probe was able to take many true-color pictures of Mercury. A full list can be found on JPL's Photojournal. It is clear that Mercury is light grey in color.


(source: nasa.gov)


(source: nasa.gov)


(source: nasa.gov)

In terms of the actual surface, Mercury is very similar to the Moon. It's surface is speckled with craters, with some smaller craters inside them, as can be seen in some of the images above. The smoothness varies - note the inside of the larger crater in the first picture. It's quite smooth, save the smaller crater inside it.

See also this pdf.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very nice! Thank you for the quick answer! Additionally, is there any idea what it would look like from the surface (e.g. dusty, cracked, or smooth, or even varied based on location)? $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Jan 21 '16 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Jonathan I don't think there are any photos, as we haven't yet sent landers, so I can't give you any more than conjecture that it would be kind of like the Moon. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jan 21 '16 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ You can't go by the photos because astronomy photos are often enhanced for clarity. Mercury is very dark. gizmodo.com/we-finally-know-why-mercury-is-so-dark-1762944759 $\endgroup$ – userLTK Feb 19 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ @userLTK Thanks for pointing this out! Very timely, as I am making planetary mining into my solar system exploration game Planetary Settlers, and am getting ready to add pickups to Mercury. Looks like I will want to add a graphite pickup, and add Carbon as an element from mining there! $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Feb 22 at 2:27

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