Modelling of Mercury’s surface composition and remote detection from the orbit with the BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter

It can be assumed that the composition of Mercury’s thin gas envelope (exosphere) is related to the composition of the planets crustal materials. If this relationship is true, then inferences regarding the bulk chemistry of the planet might be made from a thorough exospheric study. The most vexing of all unsolved problems is the uncertainty in the source of each component. Historically, it has been believed that H and He come primarily from the solar wind, while Na and K originate from volatilized materials partitioned between Mercury’s crust and meteoritic impactors. The processes that eject atoms and molecules into the exosphere of Mercury are generally considered to be thermal vaporization, photonstimulated desorption (PSD), impact vaporization, and ion sputtering. Each of these processes has its own temporal and spatial dependence. The exosphere is strongly influenced by Mercury’s highly elliptical orbit and rapid orbital speed. As a consequence the surface undergoes large fluctuations in temperature and experiences differences of insolation with longitude. We will discuss these processes but focus more on the expected surface composition and solar wind particle sputtering which releases material like Ca and other elements from the surface minerals and discuss the relevance of composition modelling ​
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