Flux ropes in the Hermean magnetotail: Distribution, properties, and formation

Smith, Andy, Slavin, J. A., Jackman, C. M., Poh, G.-K. and Fear, R. C. (2017) Flux ropes in the Hermean magnetotail: Distribution, properties, and formation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 122 (8). pp. 8136-8153. ISSN 2169-9380

JGR Space Physics - 2017 - Smith - Flux ropes in the Hermean magnetotail Distribution properties and formation.pdf - Published Version
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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/2017JA024295


An automated method was applied to identify magnetotail flux rope encounters in MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) magnetometer data. The method identified significant deflections of the north-south component of the magnetic field coincident with enhancements in the total field or dawn-dusk component. Two hundred forty-eight flux ropes are identified that possess well-defined minimum variance analysis (MVA) coordinate systems, with clear rotations of the field. Approximately 30% can be well approximated by the cylindrically symmetric, linearly force-free model. Flux ropes are most common moving planetward, in the postmidnight sector. Observations are intermittent, with the majority (61%) of plasma sheet passages yielding no flux ropes; however, the peak rate of flux ropes during a reconnection episode is ∼5 min−1. Overall, the peak postmidnight rate is ∼0.25 min−1. Only 25% of flux ropes are observed in isolation. The radius of flux ropes is comparable to the ion inertial length within Mercury's magnetotail plasma sheet. No clear statistical separation is observed between tailward and planetward moving flux ropes, suggesting the near-Mercury neutral line (NMNL) is highly variable. Flux ropes are more likely to be observed if the preceding lobe field is enhanced over background levels. A very weak correlation is observed between the flux rope core field and the preceding lobe field orientation; a stronger relationship is found with the orientation of the field within the plasma sheet. The core field strength measured is ∼6 times stronger than the local dawn-dusk plasma sheet magnetic field.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: A.W.S. is funded by a SEPnet PhDstudentship. The contributions by oneof the authors (J.A.S.) were supportedby NASA’s Discovery Data AnalysisProgram (NNX15K88G), HeliophysicsSupporting Research (NNX15AJ68G),and Living With a Star (NNX16AJ67G).C.M.J. is supported by STFC ErnestRutherford FellowshipST/L004399/1.R.C.F. is supported by STFC ErnestRutherford FellowshipST/K004298/2.
Uncontrolled Keywords: flux ropes, Mercury's magnetotail, MESSENGER
Subjects: F300 Physics
F500 Astronomy
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2022 11:46
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 12:00
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/50566

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