Saturday, 19 March 2011


The Hermian exosphere consists of a variety of species originating either from the Solar wind or from the planetary crust.[9] The first constituents discovered were atomic hydrogen (H), helium (He) and atomic oxygen (O), which were observed by the ultraviolet photometer of the Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974. The near-surface concentrations of these elements were estimated to vary from 230 cm−3 for hydrogen to 44,000 cm−3 for oxygen, with an intermediate concentration of helium.[9] In 2008 the MESSENGER probe confirmed the presence of atomic hydrogen, although its concentration appeared higher than the 1974 estimate.[10] Mercury's exospheric hydrogen and helium are believed to come from the Solar wind, while the oxygen is likely to be of crustal origin.[9]
Ca and Mg in the tail

The fourth species detected in Mercury's exosphere was sodium (Na). It was discovered in 1985 by Drew Potter and Tom Morgan, who observed its Fraunhofer emission lines at 589 and 589.6 nm.[11] The average column density of this element is about 1 × 1011 cm−2. Sodium is observed to concentrate near the poles, forming bright spots.[12] Its abundance is also enhanced near the dawn terminator as compared to the dusk terminator.[13] Some research has claimed a correlation of the sodium abundance with certain surface features such as Caloris or radio bright spots;[11] however these results remain controversial. A year after the sodium discovery, Potter and Morgan reported that potassium (K) is also present in the exosphere of Mercury, though with a column density two orders of magnitude lower than that of sodium. The properties and spatial distribution of these two elements are otherwise very similar.[14] In 1998 another element, calcium (Ca), was detected with column density three orders of magnitude below that of sodium.[15] Observations by the MESSENGER probe in 2009 showed that calcium is concentrated mainly near the equator—opposite to what is observed for sodium and potassium.[16]Mercurys distance is 3475km. It is smaller than earth

In 2008 the MESSENGER probe's Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer (FIPS) discovered several molecular and different ions in the vicinity of Mercury, including H2O+ (ionized water vapor) and H2S+ (ionized hydrogen sulfide).[17] Their abundances relative to sodium are about 0.2 and 0.7, respectively. Other ions such as H3O+ (hydroxonium), OH (hydroxyl), O2+ and Si+ are present as well.[18] During its 2009 flyby, the Ultraviolet and Visible Spectrometer (UVVS) channel of the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) on board the MESSENGER spacecraft first revealed the presence of magnesium in the Hermian exosphere. The near-surface abundance of this newly detected constituent is roughly comparable to that of sodium.

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