Source dependency of exospheric sodium on Mercury

Y. C. Wang, W. H. Ip

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Due to a large solar radiation effect, the sodium exosphere exhibits many interesting effects, including the formation of an extended corona and a tail-like structure. The current suite of observations allows us to study some physical properties of the sodium exosphere, such as the source rates and the interaction with the surface, both experimentally and theoretically. In order to quantify the complex variations in the sodium exosphere in more detail, we use an exospheric model with the Monte-Carlo method to examine the surface interactions of a sodium atom, including the surface thermal accommodation rate and the sticking coefficient. The source rates from different components, such as the photon stimulated desorption (PSD), the meteoroid impact vaporization (MIV), and the solar wind ion sputtering (IS), can be constrained by comparing our exospheric model calculations with the published observational data. The detected terminator to limb (TL) ratio on the disk and the tail production rate can be explained with no sticking effect and small thermal accommodation rates. We also examine the best fit of the MIV source evolution, through comparison with the disk-averaged emission. The resultant discrepancy between the observations and the model fit may reflect the surface variation in the sodium abundance. A comprehensive mapping of the surface geochemical composition of the surface by the MESSENGER and Bepi-Colombo missions should give us more information about the nature of this surface-bound exosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-402
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Atmospheres, Evolution
  • Atmospheres, Structure
  • Mercury
  • Mercury, Atmosphere
  • Terrestrial planets


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