Academic Commons


Comprehensive survey of energetic electron events in Mercury's magnetosphere with data from the MESSENGER Gamma‐Ray and Neutron Spectrometer

Lawrence, David J.; Anderson, Brian J.; Baker, Daniel N.; Feldman, William C.; Ho, George C.; Korth, Haje; McNutt Jr., Ralph L.; Peplowski, Patrick N.; Solomon, Sean C.; Starr, Richard D.; Vandegriff, Jon D.; Winslow, Reka M.

Data from the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) Gamma‐Ray and Neutron Spectrometer have been used to detect and characterize energetic electron (EE) events in Mercury's magnetosphere. This instrument detects EE events indirectly via bremsstrahlung photons that are emitted when instrument and spacecraft materials stop electrons having energies of tens to hundreds of keV. From Neutron Spectrometer data taken between 18 March 2011 and 31 December 2013 we have identified 2711 EE events. EE event amplitudes versus energy are distributed as a power law and have a dynamic range of a factor of 400. The duration of the EE events ranges from tens of seconds to nearly 20 min. EE events may be classified as bursty (large variation with time over an event) or smooth (small variation). Almost all EE events are detected inside Mercury's magnetosphere on closed field lines. The precise occurrence times of EE events are stochastic, but the events are located in well‐defined regions with clear boundaries that persist in time and form what we call “quasi‐permanent structures.” Bursty events occur closer to dawn and at higher latitudes than smooth events, which are seen near noon‐to‐dusk local times at lower latitudes. A subset of EE events shows strong periodicities that range from hundreds of seconds to tens of milliseconds. The few‐minute periodicities are consistent with the Dungey cycle timescale for the magnetosphere and the occurrence of substorm events in Mercury's magnetotail region. Shorter periods may be related to phenomena such as north‐south bounce processes for the energetic electrons.

Geographic Areas


Also Published In

JGR: Space Physics

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Seismology, Geology, and Tectonophysics
Published Here
August 11, 2020