Reports Thermal Stability of Volatiles in the                                                                             ...
The MLA-dark regions display a wider range of temperatures and are             stability temperatures of a selection of si...
7. G. A. Neumann et al., Bright and dark polar deposits on Mercury: Evidence for            SPIE 4137, 84 (2000). doi:10.1...
Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on December 1, 2012Fig. 1. Maps of calculated surface and subsurface temperatures and w...
Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on December 1, 2012Fig. 2. Histograms of calculated biannual maximum (Tmax) and biannua...
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Thermal stability of_volatiles_in_the _north_polar_region_of_mercury

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Thermal stability of_volatiles_in_the _north_polar_region_of_mercury

  1. 1. Reports Thermal Stability of Volatiles in the Comparison between the areal coverage of model-calculated biannual maximum and average temperaturesNorth Polar Region of Mercury and the thermal stability of a range of candidate volatile species (Fig. 2) pro- vides strong evidence Mercury’sDavid A. Paige,1* Matthew A. Siegler,1,2 John K. Harmon,3 Gregory A. anomalous radar features are due dom- 4 4 5 5 1Neumann, Erwan M. Mazarico, David E. Smith, Maria T. Zuber, Ellen Harju, inantly to the presence of thermallyMona L. Delitsky,6 Sean C. Solomon7,8 stable water ice, rather than some other1 2 candidate frozen volatile species. Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. Jet Within the region sampled, the vast 3Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA. National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo, majority of locations within which 4 5PR 00612, USA. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA. Department of Earth, biannual average temperatures are lessAtmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.6 7 California Specialty Engineering, Flintridge, CA 91012, USA. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, than approximately 100 K are radar 8Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC 20015, USA. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, bright, whereas for areas with biannualColumbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA. average temperatures of greater than 100 K there are almost no radar-bright*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: dap@moon.ucla.edu deposits (Fig. 2C). This distribution Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on December 1, 2012 suggests that the radar-bright featuresThermal models for the north polar region of Mercury, calculated from topographic are due to the presence of a volatilemeasurements made by the MESSENGER spacecraft, show that the spatial species that is not thermally stable atdistribution of regions of high radar backscatter is well matched by the predicted temperatures higher than approximate-distribution of thermally stable water ice. MESSENGER measurements of near- ly100 K. Because of the exponentialinfrared surface reflectance indicate bright surfaces in the coldest areas where dependence of vacuum sublimationwater ice is predicted to be stable at the surface, and dark surfaces within and loss rates with temperature, the thermalsurrounding warmer areas where water ice is predicted to be stable only in the near stabilities of the candidate volatilesubsurface. We propose that the dark surface layer is a sublimation lag deposit that species shown in Fig. 2A over time-may be rich in impact-derived organic material. scales of millions to billions of years are well separated in temperature. AsEarth-based radar observations have yielded maps of anomalously shown in Fig. 2A and fig. S8, the temperatures at which at which 1 mmbright, depolarizing features on Mercury that appear to be localized in of exposed water ice, or 1 mm of water ice buried beneath a 10-cm-thickpermanently shadowed regions near the planet’s poles (1, 2). Observa- lag deposit, would sublimate to a vacuum in 1 Gy is between 100 andtions of similar radar signatures over a range of radar wavelengths imply 115 K, which we interpret as strong evidence that Mercury’s anomalousthat the radar-bright features correspond to deposits that are highly radar features are due dominantly to the presence of thermally stabletransparent at radar wavelengths and extend to depths of several meters water ice. Because the radar-bright regions are found to exist only inbelow the surface (3). Cold-trapped water ice has been proposed as the regions that are just cold enough to trap subsurface water over billion-most likely material to be responsible for these features (2, 4, 5), but year timescales, they therefore must consist mostly of water. As illus-other volatile species that are abundant on Mercury such as sulfur have trated in Fig. 2, B and C, the fractional areal coverage of regions that arealso been suggested (6). both radar bright and sufficiently cold to trap subsurface elemental sul- Measurements of surface reflectance at a wavelength of 1064 nm fur, for instance, is less than 1 in 500. Although the temperatures ofmade with the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) on the MESSENGER Mercury’s radar bright regions are not a good match to thermal stabilityspacecraft have revealed the presence of surface material that co-locates temperatures of sulfur, the existence of cold-traps at lower latitudesapproximately with radar-bright areas within north polar craters and that dominated by sulfur and other less volatile cold-trapped species cannothas approximately half the average reflectance of the planet, as well as be excluded, nor can the possibility that Mercury’s water ice cold trapsbright material within Kandinsky and Prokofiev craters that has approx- themselves also contain minor quantities of less volatile cold-trappedimately twice the average planetary reflectance (7). MLA measurements species.have also provided detailed maps of the topography of Mercury’s north The calculated depths at which near-surface water ice would be lostpolar region (8). Here we apply this information in conjunction with a to sublimation at a rate of less than 1 mm per billion years, under theray-tracing thermal model, previously used to predict temperatures in the assumption that the ice deposits are covered by material that has thepolar regions of Earth’s Moon (9), to calculate the thermal stability of same thermophysical properties as average surface material on Mercuryvolatile species in the north polar region of Mercury. (5, 10), are shown in Fig. 1C. The thermal model results predict that Maximum and average modeled temperatures (10) over one com- most of Mercury’s water ice deposits equatorward of 83°N would beplete, 2-year illumination cycle for the north polar region of Mercury are thermally stable only if buried beneath a ~10-cm-thick layer of low-shown in Fig. 1, A and B. The topography model north of 84° N latitude conductivity, ice-free, soil-like material, a result consistent with interpre-has been extrapolated from only a few off-nadir data tracks, so model tations of available radar data (3). At higher latitudes, the thermal modeltemperatures within this circle should be taken only as estimates. On results predict that temperatures in larger impact craters are sufficientlyMercury, biannual average temperatures can be interpreted as close ap- cold to permit the stability of surface ice deposits. The observation ofproximations to the nearly constant subsurface temperatures that exist anomalously high MLA surface reflectance values in Kandinsky andbelow the penetration depths of the diurnal temperature wave [about Prokofiev craters (7) is consistent with the interpretation that the polar0.3–0.5 m for ice-free regolith, and several meters for ice-rich areas (5, deposits in those craters contain water ice exposed at the surface. Com-9)]. The latitudinal and longitudinal symmetries in surface and near- parisons of the areal coverage of model-calculated biannual maximumsurface temperatures result from Mercury’s near-zero obliquity, eccen- and average temperatures for MLA-dark areas to all areas measured bytric orbit, and 3:2 spin-orbit resonance (11, 12). MLA in the circum-polar region 75°–83°N are shown in Fig. 2, D and E. / http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/recent / 29 November 2012 / Page 1/ 10.1126/science.1231106
  2. 2. The MLA-dark regions display a wider range of temperatures and are stability temperatures of a selection of simple organic compounds arespatially more extensive than the radar-bright regions, even after ac- such that if they were present in the Mercury polar environment, theycounting for Earth visibility. Area ratios for biannual maximum tempera- would be readily incorporated into accumulating ice deposits. The pro-tures in MLA-dark regions peak near 0.8 at ~160 K and decrease rapidly cessing of simple organic material into dark macromolecular carbona-at progressively lower temperatures. We interpret this trend as indicating ceous material is facilitated by high-energy photons and particles (10,an increasing tendency for the thermal stability of bright surface water 27–31), which are abundant in Mercury’s polar environment because ofice deposits as biannual maximum temperatures approach 100 K, which the configuration of magnetic field lines and the pattern of ion precipita-we document in an unusually cold impact crater at 82.0° N, 215° E (fig. tion at Mercury’s high latitudes (10, 32, 33). Under this scenario,S3). asteroidal and cometary impacts episodically release water and simple In total, the results of the thermal model calculations combined with organic compounds into the Mercury environment, where they migrateradar and MLA reflectance measurements present a quantitatively con- to the polar regions, become cold trapped, and accumulate. The mixturesistent case that Mercury’s polar deposits are composed dominantly of of water ice and organic material sublimates and is reprocessed to form awater ice. This conclusion is independently reinforced by measurements dark sublimation lag deposit that is analogous to that observed on theof the flux of fast and epithermal neutrons made with MESSENGER’s surfaces of comet nuclei today. The radar absorption properties of low-Neutron Spectrometer (13). In the region studied, radar-bright deposits density macromolecular carbonaceous material have been measured andare observed to be in essentially every surface and subsurface location are found to be less lossy than low-density soil (34). Therefore, the pres-where water ice is thermally stable, despite the activity of such ice de- ence of a layer of organic-rich material overlying ground ice deposits, orstruction processes as Lyman alpha photodissociation (14) and burial by the presence of minor concentrations of organic-rich material within ice Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on December 1, 2012meteoroid gardening (15). Calculated temperatures in the coldest loca- deposits, is not inconsistent with available radar observations. The pos-tions on Mercury are sufficiently low that water molecules in these cold sibility for synthesis of organic compounds in the permanently shadowedtraps have very little diffusive mobility (16). The fact that bright surface regions of Earth’s Moon has been suggested (35), and the spectroscopicice deposits are observed in these locations requires a geologically recent detection of simple organic compounds during the impact of the Lunaror ongoing supply of water. In regions of currently stable ground ice, Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (36) provides further evidencetemperatures are sufficiently warm to allow for diffusive vertical and that organic material and organic precursors co-exist within the polarlateral mobility of water (17), which has enabled water to actively mi- cold traps of solar system airless bodies.grate to sites of present thermal stability. Forming Mercury’s ground ice deposits via the sublimation of a The thermal model results provide insights into the nature and origin mixture of water ice and organic contaminants solves a longstandingof MLA-dark surface deposits. Figure 2D shows that equatorward of problem regarding their origin. Today, thick deposits of ground ice are84°N dark material is found almost universally in regions with biannual found near 75°N in areas with biannual maximum surface temperaturesaverage temperatures of 100 K and biannual maximum temperatures of in excess of 150 K. At these temperatures, pure exposed water ice depos-160 K, but dark material is entirely absent in regions with biannual aver- ited by a cometary impact would sublimate at a rate of 1 m per thousandage temperatures greater than 210 K and biannual maximum tempera- years. The ice deposit would disappear on timescales of tens of thou-tures greater than 300 K. This systematic temperature dependence would sands years if not thermally protected by a ~10-cm-thick layer of overly-not be apparent if the dark material were being redistributed about this ing ice-free material, but this geometry is problematic because theregion by impact processes alone. The distribution of dark material must timescales for burial to these depths by impact-gardened soil from adja-be controlled by the presence of a volatile substance that is not thermally cent regions is estimated to be on the order of tens of millions of yearsstable above these temperatures. Given the clear association between the (3, 15). If Mercury’s ground ice deposits contain sufficient less-volatiledark material and water ice that exists on Mercury today, we suggest that cold-trapped contaminants to create a surface lag deposit as they subli-this volatile substance is water. As shown in Fig. 2A and fig. S7, the mate, then it would not be necessary to invoke a recent cometary impacttemperature at which a water ice deposit can be considered thermally to explain their present vertical and horizontal distribution. The fact thatstable depends on the timescale under consideration. At a temperature of all of Mercury’s surface and subsurface water ice deposits appear to be102 K, for instance, a 1-m-thick layer of pure water ice would sublimate in a thermally stable configuration means that the sources of water andto space in 1 Gy, whereas at a temperature of 210 K a 1-m-thick layer of the mobility of water in Mercury’s environment are sufficiently robust topure water ice would sublimate in 35 days. We suggest that the MLA- overcome the combined effects of all other processes that would tend todark deposits are sublimation lags formed on the surfaces of metastable destroy and disrupt them.water ice, i.e., that Mercury’s polar deposits were more extensive atsome point in the past, and then retreated rapidly to their present long- References and Notesterm thermally stable state. Because Mercury’s low obliquity [2.04 ± 1. M. A. Slade, B. J. Butler, D. O. Muhleman, Mercury radar imaging: Evidence0.08 arc min (18)] is likely to have persisted since its capture into a Cas- for polar ice. Science 258, 635 (1992). doi:10.1126/science.258.5082.635 Medlinesini state > 3.5 billion years ago (Ga) (19), thermal conditions at Mercu- 2. J. K. Harmon, M. A. Slade, M. S. Rice, Radar imagery of Mercury’s putativery’s poles have been relatively stable. The formation of the MLA-dark polar ice: 1999–2005 Arecibo results. 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  4. 4. Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on December 1, 2012Fig. 1. Maps of calculated surface and subsurface temperatures and water ice stabilityin the north polar region of Mercury, superposed on a shaded-relief map ofMESSENGER topography. (A) Biannual maximum surface temperatures. (B) Biannualaverage temperatures at 2 cm depth. (C) Calculated depths below which water ice −2would be lost to sublimation at a rate of less than 1 kg m per billion years. Whiteregions indicate locations where water ice can be cold trapped at the surface, coloredregions show the minimum depths at which thermally stable water ice can be buriedbelow the surface, and gray regions indicate locations where subsurface temperaturesare too warm to permit the cold-trapping of water ice./ http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/recent / 29 November 2012 / Page 4/ 10.1126/science.1231106
  5. 5. Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on December 1, 2012Fig. 2. Histograms of calculated biannual maximum (Tmax) and biannual average (Tavg)temperatures for radar-bright and MLA-dark areas in the north polar region of Mercury comparedwith the stability temperatures of a range of candidate volatile species. (A) The vacuumsublimation loss times for 1-mm-thick pure layers of selected cold-trapped volatile species as afunction of temperature (37, 38). (B and C) Temperature histograms and areal coverage for radar-bright areas within Earth-visible areas at the times of the radar measurements in the region 75°–83°N, 30°–90°E (39). (D and E) Temperature histograms and areal coverage for MLA-dark areasfor the region 75°–83°N. / http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/recent / 29 November 2012 / Page 5/ 10.1126/science.1231106

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