MESSENGER and the chemistry of Mercury's surface

William V. Boynton, Ann L. Sprague, Sean C. Solomon, Richard D. Starr, Larry G. Evans, William C. Feldman, Jacob I. Trombka, Edgar A. Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The instrument suite on the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft is well suited to address several of Mercury's outstanding geochemical problems. A combination of data from the Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer (GRNS) and X-Ray Spectrometer (XRS) instruments will yield the surface abundances of both volatile (K) and refractory (Al, Ca, and Th) elements, which will test the three competing hypotheses for the origin of Mercury's high bulk metal fraction: aerodynamic drag in the early solar nebula, preferential vaporization of silicates, or giant impact. These same elements, with the addition of Mg, Si, and Fe, will put significant constraints on geochemical processes that have formed the crust and produced any later volcanism. The Neutron Spectrometer sensor on the GRNS instrument will yield estimates of the amount of H in surface materials and may ascertain if the permanently shadowed polar craters have a significant excess of H due to water ice. A comparison of the FeO content of olivine and pyroxene determined by the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) instrument with the total Fe determined through both GRNS and XRS will permit an estimate of the amount of Fe present in other forms, including metal and sulfides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-104
Number of pages20
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Gamma-ray spectrometry
  • Mercury
  • Mercury's surface chemistry
  • Planetary surfaces
  • Space missions
  • X-ray spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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