Most of the information we know about Mercury was gained with the aid of the space probe Mariner 10, which passed by Mercury three times between the time span of 1974-1975. Due to the conditions of illumination of the planet by the sun, it was only plausible to explore and map one half of the surface of the planet.
Photographs taken by the Mariner 10 probe revealed that the surface of Mercury is very much like that of our own moon. The likeness between the two areas is so striking that some experts hesitate in determining one photograph from another. It is obvious although in some areas that Mercury’s evolution differed greatly from that of our own Moon, even though some of the stages are similar. A very improtant impact in Mercury’s history was indeed a huge collision that created the Caloris Planitia basin that measures a whole 1,300 km in diameter. Another unique feature on Mercury is that of a remarkable system of scarps around hundereds of kilometers long and 500 to 1,000 m high. One such example of a scarp is found in the following picture.
The tectonic processes that caused such an extensive system was probably caused by the movements of crust during the heating or cooling of Mercury’s interior. Mercury’s crust may have also been disturbed by the slowing down of its original rotation to that of its slower present rotation due to the Sun’s gravity.
The craters on the surface of Mercury are named after well known painters, poets, composers, and authors from various countries. The one exception to this naming system is the bright crater Kuiper. The Kuiper crater is named after the American Astronomer who helped in the preparation of mapping Mercury’s surface but died before the mission was completed. The plains of Mercury’s surface bear various names for the planet in an array of languages and also the names of pagan gods.