Mercury's Rotation Period: Photographic Confirmation

Science  13 Dec 1968:
Vol. 162, Issue 3859, pp. 1275-1277
DOI: 10.1126/science.162.3859.1275


Photographic measures of surface features on Mercury have led to a rotation period of 58.663 ± 0.021 days, which is in good agreement with the 58.646-day period required by a predicted 2:3 resonance between the axial and orbital periods. The incorrect interpretation of earlier visual and photographic observations which supported an 88-day rotation period appears to be partially explained by peculiar characteristics associated with the observability of various hermo-graphic longitudes. The apparent contrast of most of the recorded surface features is marginal for visual observation when viewed through the terrestrial daytime sky. The intrinsic contrast of a relatively conspicuous feature was measured as 0.20, a value lower than that of typical markings observed on the moon and Mars.