Mercury's subsolar sodium exosphere: an ab initio calculation to interpret MASCS/UVVS observations from MESSENGER

Gamborino Uzcanga, Diana; Vorburger, Audrey; Wurz, Peter (2019). Mercury's subsolar sodium exosphere: an ab initio calculation to interpret MASCS/UVVS observations from MESSENGER. Annales geophysicae, 37(4), pp. 455-470. Copernicus Publications 10.5194/angeo-37-455-2019

angeo-37-455-2019.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution (CC-BY).

Download (1MB) | Preview

The optical spectroscopy measurements of sodium in Mercury's exosphere near the subsolar point by MESSENGER Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer Ultraviolet and Visible Spectrometer (MASCS/UVVS) have been interpreted before with a model employing two exospheric components of different temperatures. Here we use an updated version of the Monte Carlo (MC) exosphere model developed by Wurz and Lammer (2003) to calculate the Na content of the exosphere for the observation conditions ab initio. In addition, we compare our results to the ones according to Chamberlain theory. Studying several release mechanisms, we find that close to the surface, thermal desorption dominates driven by a surface temperature of 594 K, whereas at higher altitudes micro-meteorite impact vaporization prevails with a characteristic energy of 0.34 eV. From the surface up to 500 km the MC model results agree with the Chamberlain model, and both agree well with the observations. At higher altitudes, the MC model using micro-meteorite impact vaporization explains the observation well. We find that the combination of thermal desorption and micro-meteorite impact vaporization reproduces the observation of the selected day quantitatively over the entire observed altitude range, with the calculations performed based on the prevailing environment and orbit parameters. These findings help in improving our understanding of the physical conditions at Mercury's exosphere as well as in better interpreting mass-spectrometry data obtained to date and in future missions such as BepiColombo.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Gamborino Uzcanga, Diana; Vorburger, Audrey Helena and Wurz, Peter


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering
500 Science > 530 Physics




Copernicus Publications




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

04 Nov 2019 16:11

Last Modified:

04 Nov 2019 16:11

Publisher DOI:





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback