The major-element composition of Mercury's surface from MESSENGER X-ray spectrometry

Larry R. Nittler, Richard D. Starr, Shoshana Z. Weider, Timothy J. McCoy, William V. Boynton, Denton S. Ebel, Carolyn M. Ernst, Larry G. Evans, John O. Goldsten, David K. Hamara, David J. Lawrence, Ralph L. McNutt, Charles E. Schlemm, Sean C. Solomon, Ann L. Sprague

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

359 Scopus citations


X-ray fluorescence spectra obtained by the MESSENGER spacecraft orbiting Mercury indicate that the planet's surface differs in composition from those of other terrestrial planets. Relatively high Mg/Si and low Al/Si and Ca/Si ratios rule out a lunarlike feldspar-rich crust. The sulfur abundance is at least 10 times higher than that of the silicate portion of Earth or the Moon, and this observation, together with a low surface Fe abundance, supports the view that Mercury formed from highly reduced precursor materials, perhaps akin to enstatite chondrite meteorites or anhydrous cometary dust particles. Low Fe and Ti abundances do not support the proposal that opaque oxides of these elements contribute substantially to Mercury's low and variable surface reflectance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1847-1850
Number of pages4
Issue number6051
StatePublished - Sep 30 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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