Aluminum abundance on the surface of Mercury: Application of a new background-reduction technique for the analysis of gamma-ray spectroscopy data



[1] A new technique has been developed for characterizing gamma-ray emission from a planetary surface in the presence of large background signals generated in a spacecraft. This technique is applied to the analysis of Al gamma rays measured by the MESSENGER Gamma-Ray Spectrometer to determine the abundance of Al on the surface of Mercury. The result (Al/Si = 0.29−0.13+0.05) is consistent with Al/Si ratios derived from the MESSENGER X-Ray Spectrometer and confirms the finding of low Al abundances. The measured abundance rules out a global, lunar-like feldspar-rich crust and is consistent with previously suggested analogs for surface material on Mercury, including terrestrial komatiites, low-iron basalts, partial melts of CB chondrites, and partial melts of enstatite chondrites. Additional applications of this technique include the measurement of other elements on Mercury's surface as well as the analysis of data from other planetary gamma-ray spectrometer experiments.