Regolith Properties of Mercury Derived from Observations and Modelling

Detta är en avhandling från Astronomical Observatory, Department of Astronomy and Space Physics

Sammanfattning: The properties of Mercury's regolith have been investigated at optical and near-infrared wavelengths with high-resolution imaging, photometric, and spectroscopic observations with the Swedish Vacuum Solar Telescope and the Nordic Optical Telescope. A new global optical map at a spatial resolution of 200 km shows that the well known (from Mariner 10) and poorly known hemispheres are indistinguishable with respect to the distribution, number density, and morphological parameters of bright albedo features. This indicates a globally uniform recent (<3 Gyr) geologic evolution, a compositionally very homogeneous surface and the absence of a lunar-like mare–terrae albedo dichotomy.It is found that the spectrum of Mercury is linear, strongly sloped, lacks detectable absorption features and displays a unique relation between the continuum slope and photometric geometry. Mercury has a photometrically smoother surface than the average near-side Moon, and is 10–15% fainter and 50% more back scattering in the V-band. Unlike the case for the Moon, the average single-particle backscattering anisotropy increases with wavelength.Intimate regolith mixing models are used to determine a probable surface composition of predominantly Ca-rich labradorite plagioclase feldspar with minor low-iron enstatitic orthopyroxene, and rule out high-iron pyroxenes or olivines as other than insignificant constituents. Abundances of FeO ~1.2 wt%, TiO2 ~0 wt%, and submicroscopic metallic iron ~0.1–0.3 wt% are found for the average surface. This implies an optically active grain size of 15–30 ?m that is a factor of two smaller than for the Moon.A numerical integration study shows that hermeocentric orbits with semi-major axes <30 mercurian radii for elliptic retrograde, and circular prograde, object are stable for durations in excess of 4.5 Myr. The weak gravitational scattering effect of Mercury indicates that re-impacting particles may have been important for the early evolution of its crust.