Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

17 - Spectral Analyses of Mercury

from Part IV - Applications to Planetary Surfaces


This chapter reviews key findings from analyses of spectral reflectance measurements of Mercury taken by the MESSENGER mission. Mercury’s crust lacks the 1-µm crystal field absorption due to ferrous iron that is common on other silicate bodies, yet is unusually low in reflectance. The most likely darkening phase is carbon as graphite. Variations in reflectance and color reveal that volcanic plains averaging >5 km in thickness overlie graphite-rich low-reflectance material, which may have originated as a graphite flotation crust from a magma ocean. The one unambiguous absorption due to an oxidized transition metal, an ultraviolet oxygen–metal charge transfer band in bright, pyroclastic deposits, may originate by oxidation of carbon and sulfides, reducing 0.3–1 wt.% ferrous iron in silicates to a metallic state, unsaturating the very strong oxygen–metal charge transfer band.