Survey of Coherent ~1 Hz Waves in Mercury's Inner Magnetosphere from MESSENGER Observations

Boardsen, Scott A.; Slavin, James A.; Anderson, Brian J.; Korth, Haje; Schriver, David; Solomon, Sean C.

We summarize observations by the MESSENGER spacecraft of highly coherent waves at frequencies between 0.4 and 5 Hz in Mercury's inner magnetosphere. This survey covers the time period from 24 March to 25 September 2011, or 2.1 Mercury years. These waves typically exhibit banded harmonic structure that drifts in frequency as the spacecraft traverses the magnetic equator. The waves are seen at all magnetic local times, but their observed rate of occurrence is much less on the dayside, at least in part the result of MESSENGER's orbit. On the nightside, on average, wave power is maximum near the equator and decreases with increasing magnetic latitude, consistent with an equatorial source. When the spacecraft traverses the plasma sheet during its equatorial crossings, wave power is a factor of 2 larger than for equatorial crossings that do not cross the plasma sheet. The waves are highly transverse at large magnetic latitudes but are more compressional near the equator. However, at the equator the transverse component of these waves increases relative to the compressional component as the degree of polarization decreases. Also, there is a substantial minority of events that are transverse at all magnetic latitudes, including the equator. A few of these latter events could be interpreted as ion cyclotron waves. In general, the waves tend to be strongly linear and characterized by values of the ellipticity less than 0.3 and wave-normal angles peaked near 90 degrees. Their maxima in wave power at the equator coupled with their narrow-band character suggests that these waves might be generated locally in loss cone plasma characterized by high values of the ratio b of plasma pressure to magnetic pressure. Presumably both electromagnetic ion cyclotron waves and electromagnetic ion Bernstein waves can be generated by ion loss cone distributions. If proton b decreases with increasing magnetic latitude along a field line, then electromagnetic ion Bernstein waves are predicted to transition from compressional to transverse, a pattern consistent with our observations. We hypothesize that these local instabilities can lead to enhanced ion precipitation and directly feed fieldline resonances.


Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

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Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Published Here
September 5, 2013