MESSENGER Observations of a Flux-Transfer-Event Shower at Mercury

Solomon, Sean C.; Slavin, James A.; Imber, Suzanne M.; Boardsen, Scott A.; DiBraccio, Gina A.; Sundberg, Torbjorn; Sarantos, Menelaos; Nieves-Chinchilla, Teresa; Szabo, Adam; Anderson, Brian J.; Korth, Haje; Zurbuchen, Thomas H.; Raines, Jim M.; Johnson, Catherine L.; Winslow, Reka M.; Killen, Rosemary M.; McNutt Jr., Ralph L.

Analysis of MESSENGER magnetic field observations taken in the southern lobe of Mercury's magnetotail and the adjacent magnetosheath on 11 April 2011 indicates that a total of 163 flux transfer events (FTEs) occurred within a 25 min interval. Each FTE had a duration of ∼2-3 s and was separated in time from the next by ∼8-10 s. A range of values have been reported at Earth, with mean values near ∼1-2 min and ∼8 min, respectively. We term these intervals of quasiperiodic flux transfer events "FTE showers." The northward and sunward orientation of the interplanetary magnetic field during this shower strongly suggests that the FTEs observed during this event formed just tailward of Mercury's southern magnetic cusp. The point of origin for the shower was confirmed with the Cooling model of FTE motion. Modeling of the individual FTE-type flux ropes in the magnetosheath indicates that these flux ropes had elliptical cross sections, a mean semimajor axis of 0.15RM (where RM is Mercury's radius, or 2440 km), and a mean axial magnetic flux of 1.25 MWb. The lobe magnetic field was relatively constant until the onset of the FTE shower, but thereafter the field magnitude decreased steadily until the spacecraft crossed the magnetopause. This decrease in magnetic field intensity is frequently observed during FTE showers. Such a decrease may be due to the diamagnetism of the new magnetosheath plasma being injected into the tail by the FTEs.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

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Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
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September 19, 2013