Structures and Processes at the Mercury Magnetopause
2015 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
The mechanism involved in the transfer of energy, momentum and plasma from the solar wind to any planetary magnetosphere is considered one of the more important topics in space plasma physics. With the use of the Mercury spacecraft MESSENGER’s (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) data, it has been possible to study these processes in an environment different, yet similar, to Earth’s. These data have resulted in unprecedented investigations advancing not only the extraterrestrial space plasma research, but also the general space physics field.
This work aims to investigate the Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) instability at Mercury’s magnetopause, which is believed to be one of the main drivers for the transfer of matter and energy into Earth’s magnetosphere, and the low- latitude boundary layer (LLBL) which is in direct connection to the magnetopause. The studies use data from MESSENGER’s magnetometer (MAG) and fast imaging plasma spectrometer (FIPS) instruments during the first three years in orbit. Results show that KH waves are observed almost exclusively on the duskside magnetopause, something that has not been observed at Earth. In contrast, the LLBL shows an opposite asymmetry as it occurs more often on the dawnside. Both the KH instability and the LLBL are observed mainly during northward interplanetary magnetic field. This, together with the distinct opposite asymmetry, suggests that the KH instability and LLBL are somehow connected. Previous theoretical studies, simulations and observations have shown or indicated that the sodium ions have a large impact on the Hermean magnetospheric environment, including the boundary layer where the KH instability arises. One possibility is that the sodium ions also induce the observed dawn-dusk asymmetry in the LLBL. Another explanation could be that the LLBL on its own influences the KH wave occurrence by reducing the KH wave growth rates on the dawnside where most of the LLBLs are observed. Furthermore, observations agree with some formation mechanisms that should give rise to the observed dawn-dusk LLBL asymmetry.
The processes responsible for the dawn-dusk occurrence asymmetry in both the KH instability and the LLBL are yet to be confirmed. Future work may also include determination of the contribution of KH waves to the energy and plasma transfer from the solar wind to the Hermean magnetosphere.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. , xi, 32 p.
TRITA-EE, ISSN 1653-5146 ; 2015:53
Fusion, Plasma and Space Physics
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-174306ISBN: 978-91-7595-681-7OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-174306DiVA: diva2:858623
2015-10-21, Alfvén lab’s seminar room, Teknikringen 31, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Plaschke, Ferdinand, Dr.
Karlsson, Tomas, Associate Professor
FunderSwedish National Space Board, 566176
QC 201510052015-10-052015-10-022015-10-05Bibliographically approved
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