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Mercury’s surface magnetic field determined from proton-reflection magnetometry

Winslow, Reka M.; Johnson, Catherine L.; Anderson, Brian J.; Gershman, Daniel J.; Raines, Jim M.; Lillis, Robert J.; Korth, Haje; Slavin, James A.; Solomon, Sean C.; Zurbuchen, Thomas H.; Zuber, Maria T.

Solar wind protons observed by the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit about Mercury exhibit signatures of precipitation loss to Mercury’s surface. We apply proton-reflection magnetometry to sense Mercury’s surface magnetic field intensity in the planet’s northern and southern hemispheres. The results are consistent with a dipole field offset to the north and show that the technique may be used to resolve regional-scale fields at the surface. The proton loss cones indicate persistent ion precipitation to the surface in the northern magnetospheric cusp region and in the southern hemisphere at low nightside latitudes. The latter observation implies that most of the surface in Mercury’s southern hemisphere is continuously bombarded by plasma, in contrast with the premise that the global magnetic field largely protects the planetary surface from the solar wind.

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Title
Geophysical Research Letters
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GL060258

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Publisher
American Geophysical Union
Published Here
October 12, 2015