A modelling approach to infer the solar wind dynamic pressure from magnetic field observations inside Mercury’s magnetosphere
Swedish Institute of Space Physics,
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
2 École Nationale Supérieure de Mécanique et d’Aérotechnique, Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, France
3 Department of Physics, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
Accepted: 18 March 2018
Aims. The lack of an upstream solar wind plasma monitor when a spacecraft is inside the highly dynamic magnetosphere of Mercury limits interpretations of observed magnetospheric phenomena and their correlations with upstream solar wind variations.
Methods. We used AMITIS, a three-dimensional GPU-based hybrid model of plasma (particle ions and fluid electrons) to infer the solar wind dynamic pressure and Alfvén Mach number upstream of Mercury by comparing our simulation results with MESSENGER magnetic field observations inside the magnetosphere of Mercury. We selected a few orbits of MESSENGER that have been analysed and compared with hybrid simulations before. Then we ran a number of simulations for each orbit (~30–50 runs) and examined the effects of the upstream solar wind plasma variations on the magnetic fields observed along the trajectory of MESSENGER to find the best agreement between our simulations and observations.
Results. We show that, on average, the solar wind dynamic pressure for the selected orbits is slightly lower than the typical estimated dynamic pressure near the orbit of Mercury. However, we show that there is a good agreement between our hybrid simulation results and MESSENGER observations for our estimated solar wind parameters. We also compare the solar wind dynamic pressure inferred from our model with those predicted previously by the WSA-ENLIL model upstream of Mercury, and discuss the agreements and disagreements between the two model predictions. We show that the magnetosphere of Mercury is highly dynamic and controlled by the solar wind plasma and interplanetary magnetic field. In addition, in agreement with previous observations, our simulations show that there are quasi-trapped particles and a partial ring current-like structure in the nightside magnetosphere of Mercury, more evident during a northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). We also use our simulations to examine the correlation between the solar wind dynamic pressure and stand-off distance of the magnetopause and compare it with MESSENGER observations. We show that our model results are in good agreement with the response of the magnetopause to the solar wind dynamic pressure, even during extreme solar events. We also show that our model can be used as a virtual solar wind monitor near the orbit of Mercury and this has important implications for interpretation of observations by MESSENGER and the future ESA/JAXA mission to Mercury, BepiColombo.
Key words: planets and satellites: terrestrial planets / methods: numerical / solar-terrestrial relations / solar wind / Sun: activity / magnetic fields
© ESO 2018
Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.