Dynamics of electrons and heavy ions in Mercury's magnetosphere

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Abstract

Several basic magnetospheric processes at Mercury have been investigated with simple models. These include the adiabatic acceleration and convection of equatorially mirroring charged particles, the current sheet acceleration effect, and the acceleration of Na+ and other exospheric ions by the magnetospheric electric and magnetic fields near the planetary surface. The current steady-state treatment of the magnetospheric drift and convection processes suggests that the region of the inner magnetosphere as explored by the Mariner 10 spacecraft during its encounter with Mercury should be largely devoid of energetic (>100 keV) electrons in equatorial mirroring motion. As for ion motion, the large gyroradii of the heavy ions permit surface reimpact as well as loss via intercepting the magnetopause. Because of the kinetic energy gained in the gyromotion, the first effect could lead to sputtering processes and hence generation of secondary ions and neutrals. The second effect could account for the loss of about 50% of Mercury's exospheric ions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-447
Number of pages7
JournalIcarus
Volume71
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1987

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