Mercury: Results on Mass, Radius, Ionosphere, and Atmosphere from Mariner 10 Dual-Frequency Radio Signals

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Science  12 Jul 1974:
Vol. 185, Issue 4146, pp. 179-180
DOI: 10.1126/science.185.4146.179


Analysis of the radio-tracking data from Mariner 10 yields 6,023,600 ± 600 for the ratio of the mass of the sun to that of Mercury, in very good agreement with values determined earlier from radar data alone. Occultation measurements yielded values for the radius of Mercury of 2440 ± 2 and 2438 ± 2 kilometers at laditudes of 2°N and 68°N, respectively, again in close agreement with the average equatorial radius of 2439 ± 1 kilometers determined from radar data. The mean density of 5.44 grams per cubic centimeter deduced for Mercury from Mariner 10 data thus virtually coincides with the prior determination. No evidence of either an ionosphere or an atmosphere was found, with the data yielding upper bounds on the electron density of about 1500 and 4000 electrons per cubic centimeter on the dayside and nightside, respectively, and an inferred upper bound on the surface pressure of 10-8 millibar.