Space Science Reviews

, Volume 131, Issue 1–4, pp 161–186 | Cite as

Mercury’s Atmosphere: A Surface-Bounded Exosphere

  • Deborah L. Domingue
  • Patrick L. Koehn
  • Rosemary M. Killen
  • Ann L. Sprague
  • Menelaos Sarantos
  • Andrew F. Cheng
  • Eric T. Bradley
  • William E. McClintock
Article

Abstract

The existence of a surface-bounded exosphere about Mercury was discovered through the Mariner 10 airglow and occultation experiments. Most of what is currently known or understood about this very tenuous atmosphere, however, comes from ground-based telescopic observations. It is likely that only a subset of the exospheric constituents have been identified, but their variable abundance with location, time, and space weather events demonstrate that Mercury’s exosphere is part of a complex system involving the planet’s surface, magnetosphere, and the surrounding space environment (the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field). This paper reviews the current hypotheses and supporting observations concerning the processes that form and support the exosphere. The outstanding questions and issues regarding Mercury’s exosphere stem from our current lack of knowledge concerning the surface composition, the magnetic field behavior within the local space environment, and the character of the local space environment.

Keywords

Atmospheres Exosphere Mercury Space physics Space weathering MESSENGER 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah L. Domingue
    • 1
  • Patrick L. Koehn
    • 2
  • Rosemary M. Killen
    • 3
  • Ann L. Sprague
    • 4
  • Menelaos Sarantos
    • 3
  • Andrew F. Cheng
    • 1
  • Eric T. Bradley
    • 5
  • William E. McClintock
    • 5
  1. 1.The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics LaboratoryLaurelUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physics and AstronomyEastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA
  3. 3.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  4. 4.Lunar and Planetary LaboratoryUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  5. 5.Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space PhysicsUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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