Global MHD modeling of Mercury's magnetosphere with applications to the MESSENGER mission and dynamo theory

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Physics and Astronomy


We use a global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) model to simulate Mercury's space environment for several solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions in anticipation of the magnetic field measurements by the MESSENGER spacecraft. The main goal of our study is to assess what characteristics of the internally generated field of Mercury can be inferred from the MESSENGER observations, and to what extent they will be able to constrain various models of Mercury's magnetic field generation. Based on the results of our simulations, we argue that it should be possible to infer not only the dipole component, but also the quadrupole and possibly even higher harmonics of the Mercury's planetary magnetic field. We furthermore expect that some of the crucial measurements for specifying the Hermean internal field will be acquired during the initial fly-bys of the planet, before MESSENGER goes into orbit around Mercury. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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