Abstract We analyze MESSENGER reflectance measurements covering the northern polar region of Mercury, the least studied region of the northern mercurian hemisphere. We use observations from the Mercury Dual Imaging System Wide-Angle Camera (MDIS/WAC) and the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS/VIRS) to study the spectral dependence of the surface reflectance. The results obtained from the observations made by both instruments are remarkably consistent. We find that a second degree polynomial description of the measured reflectance spectra gives very good fits to the data and that the information that they carry can best be characterized by two parameters, the mean reflectance and the mean relative spectral slope, averaged over the explored range of wavelengths. The properties of the four main types of terrains known to form Mercury’s regolith in the northern region, smooth plains (SPs), heavily cratered terrain (HCT), fresh ejecta/materials and red pitted ground (RPG), are examined in terms of these two parameters. The results are compared, and found consistent with those obtained by earlier studies in spite of difficulties met in obtaining accurate reflectance measurements under the large incidence angle condition characteristic of polar regions. These results will help with the preparation of the BepiColombo mission and with supporting its observational strategy.
Keywords planets and satellites: terrestrial planets — planets and satellites: surfaces — techniques: spectroscopic
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