THEMIS Na exosphere observations of Mercury and their correlation with in-situ magnetic field measurements by MESSENGER

Abstract : The Na exosphere of Mercury is being studied since its discovery in mid ‘80 s from Earth-based telescopes, and it has revealed a high dynamics and variability. Although the processes and their relationships characterising the Hermean exosphere generation and dynamics are still not exhaustively understood, there are no doubts on a tight interconnection among the planet’s surface, exosphere, intrinsic magnetic field, the Solar Wind and the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF). In this paper we analyse an extended dataset of images of the exospheric Na emission, collected from 2009 to 2013, by means of the THEMIS ground-based telescope, in order to perform a comprehensive statistical study of the recurrent Na emission patterns, and also their potential relationship with the IMF variability. For this purpose, we take advantage of a subset (years 2011-2013) of contemporary in situ measurements of the IMF obtained by the MAG instrument on-board the MESSENGER spacecraft. We found that the high latitude double peak is the most common Na emission pattern, supporting the view that the solar wind ion precipitation through the polar cusps has an important role in the generation of the observed Na exospheric configuration. Moreover, the lack of a statistically significant North-South asymmetry seems to disfavour the existence of an asymmetric and/or shifted intrinsic magnetic dipole. By analysing a subset of quasi-full disk images, we found that the double peak Na emission is typically aligned along the meridian, mostly occurring in the pre-noon sector (53%), about 1/3 close to the noon meridian (36%), whereas only 11% takes place in the post-noon sector. Finally, the comparison with the IMF data seems to indicate that the contribution of the IMF BX component to the magnetic reconnection is generally weak, even if we found a noticeable correlation between positive IMF BX and symmetric double peak pattern. Negative IMF BZ values are usually connected to double peak emission, whereas positive IMF BZ values are more frequently associated to single peaked equatorial Na emission.
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Submitted on : Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 8:31:34 AM
Last modification on : Friday, April 5, 2019 - 8:23:35 PM



Valeria Mangano, Stefano Massetti, Anna Milillo, Christina Plainaki, Stefano Orsini, et al.. THEMIS Na exosphere observations of Mercury and their correlation with in-situ magnetic field measurements by MESSENGER. Planetary and Space Science, Elsevier, 2015, 115, pp.102-109. ⟨10.1016/j.pss.2015.04.001⟩. ⟨insu-01142813⟩



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