Spatial Distribution and Spectral Characteristics of Energetic Electrons in Mercury's Magnetosphere

Solomon, Sean C.; Ho, George C.; Krimigis, Stamatios M.; Gold, Robert E.; Baker, Daniel N.; Anderson, Brian J.; Korth, Haje; Slavin, James A.; McNutt Jr., Ralph L.; Winslow, Reka M.

The Energetic Particle Spectrometer (EPS) on the MESSENGER spacecraft, in orbit about Mercury since March 2011, has detected bursts of low- and moderate-energy (tens to hundreds of keV) electrons during portions of most orbits. There have been periods when such bursts were observed regularly on every orbit over a span of several weeks, and other periods when electrons were not observed for several days at a time. We have systematically characterized these energetic events on the basis of particle intensity over the 12-month period since MESSENGER began orbital operations. Now that MESSENGER has sampled most Mercury longitudes and local times, it is evident that the largest burst events were either at high northern latitudes or near local midnight. Lower-energy events were also seen near the equator but were mostly absent in both the dawn and dusk local time sectors. The high-latitude and nightside events are similar in particle intensity, spectra, and pitch angle and are interpreted to be the result of acceleration by the same mechanism. Another group of events occurred upstream of Mercury's bow shock. For two examples of this group of upstream events with good pitch angle coverage, the particles were field-aligned and traveling away from the bow shock. This group of events is interpreted to be similar to upstream events found at Earth during which particles are accelerated at the bow shock and subsequently travel upstream into the solar wind.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Published Here
September 16, 2013