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M. Mendillo, J. Baumgardner, J. K. Wilson (Boston University)
New instrumentation has been developed for spectral imaging of Mercury's extended atmosphere. The approach depends upon simultaneous short-exposure images in white light and sodium, with the former used to select the frames for post-integration of the sodium images. The effects of atmospheric seeing are thus minimized by the combination of high-speed exposures and subsequent selective integration. The instrumentation consists of a long slit imaging Echelle spectrometer equipped with an image slicer and an imaging photon detector. A test of the white light component of the technique has yielded a best-to-date image of a portion of Mercury's surface not photographed during the Mariner 10 mission. The pilot observations were made at the Mt. Wilson Observatory on 29 August 1998. The optical images show Mercury's albedo features over the longitude range 270o-360o W. Spatially variable features are seen with a resolution of ~250 km. A bright feature in the northern hemisphere appears similar to the lunar crater Copernicus; three darker features are similar in appearance to lunar maria. There are no obvious relations of the white light albedo features to either radar maps or sodium bright spots reported in the literature.
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