Mercury’s magnetosphere is highly dynamic because of the planet’s small magnetic field and proximity to the Sun. The interaction of the solar wind with the planetary field generates waves in particles and fields, and reconnection of interplanetary and planetary magnetic field lines and circulation of magnetic flux in the magnetosphere occur 100 times faster than at Earth. This animation shows the temporal evolution of ion density in the equatorial plane, looking down from the north pole. Kelvin-Helmholtz surface waves form at the magnetopause near the sub-solar point and grow as they move anti-sunward. The mixing of solar wind and magnetospheric plasma is just one of many processes that cause Mercury’s magnetosphere to be highly dynamic. Features of the simulation are consistent with observations by MESSENGER’s Magnetometer and Energetic Particle and Plasma Spectrometer. Courtesy of Jan Paral, National Center for Atmospheric Research.


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