Science and Exploration

Origin And evolution Of Mercury’s Circumsolar Dust Ring

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
January 27, 2023
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Origin And evolution Of Mercury’s Circumsolar Dust Ring
Circumsolar Dust Rings

A circumsolar dust ring has been recently discovered close to the orbit of Mercury. There are currently no hypotheses for the origin of this ring in the literature.

So we explore four different origin scenarios here: the dust originated from (1) the sporadic meteoroid complex that comprises the major portion of the Zodiacal Cloud, (2) recent asteroidal/cometary activity, (3) hypothetical dust-generating bodies locked in mean-motion resonances beyond Mercury, and (4) bodies co-orbiting with Mercury.

We find that only scenario (4) reproduces the observed structure and location of Mercury’s dust ring. However, the lifetimes of Mercury’s co-orbitals (<20 Ma) preclude the primordial origin of the co-orbiting source population due to dynamical instability and meteoroid bombardment, demanding a recent event feeding the observed dust ring.

We find that an impact on Mercury can eject debris into the co-orbital resonance. We estimate the ages of six candidate impacts that formed craters larger than 40 km in diameter using high-resolution spacecraft data from MESSENGER and find two craters with estimated surface ages younger than 50 Ma.

We find that the amount of mass transported from Mercury’s surface into the co-orbital resonance from these two impacts is several orders of magnitude smaller than what is needed to explain the magnitude of Mercury’s ring inferred from remote sensing. Therefore we suggest that numerous younger, smaller impacts collectively contributed to the origin of the ring.

We conclude that the recent impact hypothesis for the origin of Mercury’s dust ring is a viable scenario, whose validity can be constrained by future inner solar system missions.

Petr Pokorny, Ariel N. Deutsch, Marc J. Kuchner

Comments: 31 pages, 10 figures, 3 tables, Accepted to the Planetary Science Journal
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2301.10219 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2301.10219v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
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Submission history
From: Petr Pokorny
[v1] Tue, 24 Jan 2023 18:50:10 UTC (10,559 KB)

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.