The Rotation of the Planet Mercury
Reliable radar observations and some of the generally unreliable optical observations of Mercury are consistent with its rotating in a direct fashion with a period just two-thirds of its orbital period. This possibility may be understood as a consequence of the combined solar torques exerted on tidal deformations and on a permanent asymmetry in Mercury's equatorial plane, as suggested by Colombo. A simple model illustrating this superharmonic resonance phenomenon is developed in some detail; several alternative paths by which Mercury could have reached its present state of motion are discussed briefly.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- July 1966