In our previous articles, we have covered the objectives, the firsts, and the journey of Mariner 10. It has achieved many milestones to achieve the various objectives. All this was possible because of the various sophisticated instruments onboard. And this is today’s topic of discussion.
Mariner 10 conducted seven experiments at Venus and Mercury. Six of these experiments had a dedicated scientific instrument to collect data and they are as follows:
1. Television photography
The imaging system, the Television Photography Experiment, consisted of Cassegrain telescopes feeding video camera tubes. Of the six main scientific instruments, the cameras were by far the most massive device. Requiring 67 watts of electricity, the cameras consumed more power than the other five instruments combined. The system returned about 7000 photographs of Mercury and Venus during Mariner 10’s flybys.
2. Infrared radiometer
The infrared radiometer detected infrared radiation given off by the surface of Mercury and the atmosphere of Venus, from which the temperature could be calculated. How quickly the surface lost heat as it rotated into the planet’s dark side revealed aspects about the composition of the surface, such as whether it was made out of rocks, or out of finer particles. The instrument was designed to measure temperatures as cold as -193 °C and as hot as 427 °C.
3. Ultraviolet spectrometers
It scanned Mercury’s edge as it passed in front of the Sun, and detected whether solar ultraviolet radiation was absorbed in certain wavelengths, which would indicate the presence of gas particles, and therefore an atmosphere. The experiment’s most important goal was to ascertain whether Mercury had an atmosphere.
4. Plasma detectors
Its goal was to study the ionized gases (plasma) of the solar wind, the temperature and density of its electrons, and how the planets affected the velocity of the plasma stream. Shortly after launch, scientists found that the Scanning Electrostatic Analyzer had failed because a door shielding the analyzer did not open.
5. Charged particle telescopes
Two telescopes were used to collect highly energetic electrons and atomic nuclei, specifically oxygen nuclei or less massive. It was used to provide additional evidence of a magnetic field around Mercury.
They determined whether Mercury produced a magnetic field, and also studied the interplanetary magnetic field between flybys.
7. Celestial Mechanics and Radio Science experiment
This experiment investigated the mass and gravitational characteristics of Mercury. The atmosphere was assessed as having a density of about 1016 molecules per cm3.
That is all about Mariner 10, we hope you found this series quite informative. In our next article, we will start with a new probe and a new mission. Till then take care!!