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Mercury’s place among the terrestrial planets:: Summary on what can be measured from ground
Uppsala University, Teknisk-naturvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Physics, Department of Astronomy and Space Physics.
2006 (English)In: European Planetary Science Conference, Berlin, June 2006: EuroPlanet 2006, 2006Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Close-range measurements during the multiple flybys of Mariner 10 past Mercury in

1974-1975 provided us with the bulk of information currently available on its physical

properties. Understanding of its geology and evolution took a quantum leap, yet

numerous questions were left unanswered and new questions were opened up regarding

processes that shaped its appearance as observed today. Two main shortages in

the Mariner 10 data set with respect to this understanding pertains to Mercury’s crust:

imaging coverage was less than half of its surface, and spectrometers for compositional

determinations were unavailable.

Since then, and particularly during the past decade or two, ground-based studies have

provided a wealth of new information that aid in understanding the chemical and microphysical

properties of its regolith. These include spectroscopy, imaging, photometry

and polarimetry at visual, near infrared, thermal infrared and radar wavelengths.

Modeling of these data sets, laboratory studies, and comparative planetological interpretations

of its remotely-sensed properties to those of the Moon and other atmosphereless

bodies in the inner solar system, has clarified many issues and revealed

unexpected facets of this extreme end-member planet. These include the discovery of

volatiles at the planet’s poles, new atomic species in the exosphere, the realisation of

the apparent similaries of the Mariner 10 and poorly known hemispheres, confirmation

that the surface mineralogy is likely heterogeneous and dominated by intermediate

feldspars with minor low-iron pyroxenes, very iron-poor and very strongly matured.

Due to Mercury’s location close to the Sun, the large mass of exogenically contributed

chondritic and volatile-rich material since the solidification of its crust, may be of

greater importance for the interpretation of the surface and bulk properties than those

of any other body, and accentuates that this planet in many ways is drastically different

from the superficially similar Moon. With this fact in mind, important as groundbased

observations and remote-sensing observations of Mercury’s surface are, they

may be able to provide critical, or may provide only limited, information pertaining

to the determination of the correct formation model for the planet, for which the bulk

properties are the key. This introductory panel talk will discuss what can be measured

with Earth-based observations from the ground with respect to surface composition,

and the input this data provides for the selection of the correct formation model for


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-24858OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-24858DiVA: diva2:52632
Available from: 2007-02-07 Created: 2007-02-07

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