A recent study carried out by the scientists at the Technology University of Wien (TU Wien), Austria, and issued in the Icarus journal, reveals what’s exactly happening when solar winds hit the surface of the planets that are not protected by a magnetosphere, such as Mercury or the Moon. Also, these solar winds can help ESA to see what’s happening on the Mercury’s surface and what’s its chemical composition.
“The solar winds consist of charged particles – mainly hydrogen and helium ions, but heavier atoms up to iron also play a role,” said Professor Friedrich Aumayr from the TU Wien.
As the scientists observed so far, particles that make up solar winds can hit the surface of Mercury at approximately 400-800 kilometers per second causing rocks erosion and casting atoms in the space. These atoms will then lay around the planet in a structure similar to an atmosphere, known as “exosphere.”
ESA Can Use Solar Winds To Assess The Mercury’s Surface Composition
The exosphere is very important for scientists because it can reveal the exact composition of a planet’s surface without the need for sending a space probe to do that.
But, employing observations of the exosphere has one downside. Namely, the astronomers have to know what are the exact effects of solar winds on the atoms and rocks on a planet. To date, however, the theory said that the kinetic energy of the solar winds’ particles was the culprit for the damages done when solar winds hit the surfaces of planets.
Now, during an experiment on a Moon rock sample, the researchers at the TU Wien concluded that the particles’ electrical charge has its role, and “if this is not taken into account, the effects of the solar wind on various rocks are misjudged,” as explained Paul Szabo, one of the participants in this study.
This exciting research could be helpful during the ESA’s BepiColombo mission scheduled to take off in October 2018 to study Mercury. Therefore, before landing the probe, ESA can use solar winds to see what’s the surface of Mercury made of.
Erin VanDyke lives on her family farm and has more than 35 years of hands-on experience with the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control. On their farm, Jan and her family use corgis as herding dogs and have raised Shetland sheep, Fainting goats, Morgan and Trakehner horses, and historic breeds of chickens and turkeys. Erin is also an active beekeeper.