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Observations of the Minor Species Al and Fe in Mercury's ExosphereWe report here on the first observational evidence of Al and Fe in the exosphere of Mercury, based on measurements of resolved emission lines of these metals with Keck-1/HIRES. Al emission was observed on two separate runs, in 2008 and 2013, with tangent column densities of 3.1 +/- 1.0 and 4.0 +/-1.5 x 10(exp 7) Al atoms cm(exp - 2) at altitudes of 1185 and 1870 km (1.5 and 1.75 R(sub M). The Al radiative intensity was seen to increase where the slit crossed the planetary penumbral shadow, and then decrease monotonically with altitude. Fe emission has been observed once, in 2009, indicating an extended source. We also present observed 3- Sigma Ca(+) upper limits near Mercury's equatorial anti-solar limb, from which an abundance limit of 4.0 x 10(exp 6) cm(exp -2) at 1650 km altitude is derived for the Ca ion. A simple model for zenith column abundances of the neutral species yields 1.9 -5.2 x 10(exp 7) Al cm(exp -2) , and 8.2 x 10(exp 8) Fe cm(exp -2) . The observations appear to be consistent with production of these species by impact vaporization, with a large fraction of the Al ejecta in molecular form, and that for Fe in mixed atomic and molecular forms. The scale height of the Al gas is consistent with a kinetic temperature of 6100-8000 K. The apparent high temperature and low density of the Al gas would suggest that it may be produced by dissociation of molecules.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Bida, Thomas A. (Lowell Observatory Flagstaff, AZ, United States)
Killen, Rosemary M. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Date Acquired
April 7, 2017
Publication Date
October 14, 2016
Publication Information
Publication: Icarus
Volume: 289
ISSN: 0019-1035
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
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