Hot flow anomalies (HFAs) represent a subset of heliospheric current sheets interacting with planetary bow shocks. They are typically formed when the normal component of the motional (convective) electric field is directed toward the embedded current sheet on at least one side. The core region of an HFA contains hot and highly deflected ion flows and rather low and turbulent magnetic field. In this talk, we report the first observations of HFA-like events at Mercury. Using the data from the orbital phase of the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission, we identify a representative ensemble of active current sheets magnetically connected to Mercury's bow shock. We show that some of these events exhibit unambiguous signatures of HFAs similar to those observed at other planets, and present their key physical characteristics. Our analysis suggests that Mercury's bow shock does not only mediate the flow of supersonic solar wind plasma but also provides conditions for local particle acceleration and heating as predicted by previous numerical simulations. Together with earlier studies of HFA activity at Earth, Venus, and Saturn, our results confirm that hot flow anomalies could be a common property of planetary bow shocks.
AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2012
- 2784 MAGNETOSPHERIC PHYSICS / Solar wind/magnetosphere interactions;
- 5443 PLANETARY SCIENCES: SOLID SURFACE PLANETS / Magnetospheres