MESSENGER Observations of Dipolarization Events in Mercury's Magnetotail

Solomon, Sean C.; Sundberg, Torbjorn; Slavin, James A.; Boardsen, Scott A.; Anderson, Brian J.; Korth, Haje; Ho, George C.; Schriver, David; Uritsky, Vadim M.; Zurbuchen, Thomas H.; Raines, Jim M.; Baker, Daniel N.; Krimigis, Stamatios M.; McNutt Jr., Ralph L.

Several series of large dipolarization events are documented from magnetic field observations in Mercury's magnetotail made by the MESSENGER spacecraft. The dipolarizations are identified by a rapid (∼1 s) increase in the northward component of the magnetic field, followed by a slower return (∼10 s) to pre-onset values. The changes in field strength during an event frequently reach 40 nT or higher, equivalent to an increase in the total magnetic field magnitude by a factor of ∼4 or more. The presence of spatially constrained dipolarizations at Mercury provides a key to understanding the magnetic substorm process in a new parameter regime: the dipolarization timescale, which is shorter than at Earth, is suspected to lead to efficient non-adiabatic heating of the plasma sheet proton population, and the high recurrence rate of the structures is similar to that frequently observed for flux ropes and traveling compression regions in Mercury's magnetotail. The relatively short lifetime of the events is attributed to the lack of steady field-aligned current systems at Mercury.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Published Here
September 19, 2013