Planet Mercury Surface


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Mercury is too small and hot for its gravity to retain any significant atmosphere over long periods of time; it does have a tenuous surface-bounded exosphere[70] containing hydrogen, helium, oxygen, sodium, calcium, potassium and others at a surface pressure of less than approximately 0. 5 nPa (0. 005 picobars). This exosphere is not stable—atoms are continuously lost and replenished from a variety of sources. Hydrogen atoms and helium atoms probably come from the solar wind, diffusing into Mercury's magnetosphere before later escaping back into space. Radioactive decay of elements within Mercury's crust is another source of helium, as well as sodium and potassium. MESSENGER found high proportions of calcium, helium, hydroxide, magnesium, oxygen, potassium, silicon and sodium. Water vapor is present, released by a combination of processes such as: comets striking its surface, sputtering creating water out of hydrogen from the solar wind and oxygen from rock, and sublimation from reservoirs of water ice in the permanently shadowed polar craters. The detection of high amounts of water-related ions like O+, OH−, and H2O+ was a surprise. [71][72] Because of the quantities of these ions that were detected in Mercury's space environment, scientists surmise that these molecules were blasted from the surface or exosphere by the solar wind. [73][74]