Mercury's cross-tail current sheet: Structure, X-line location and stress balance

Gangkai Poh*, James A. Slavin, Xianzhe Jia, Jim M. Raines, Suzanne M. Imber, Wei Jie Sun, Daniel J. Gershman, Gina A. DiBraccio, Kevin J. Genestreti, Andy W. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
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The structure, X-line location, and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) stress balance of Mercury's magnetotail were examined between −2.6 < XMSM < −1.4 RM using MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) measurements from 319 central plasma sheet (CPS) crossings. The mean plasma β in the CPS calculated from MESSENGER data is ~ 6. The CPS magnetic field was southward (i.e., tailward of X-line) ~ 2–18% of the time. Extrapolation of downtail variations in BZ indicates an average X-line location at −3 RM. Modeling of magnetic field measurements produced a cross-tail current sheet (CS) thickness, current density, and inner CS edge location of 0.39 RM, 92 nA/m2 and −1.22 RM, respectively. Application of MHD stress balance suggests that heavy planetary ions may be important in maintaining stress balance within Mercury's CPS. Qualitative similarities between Mercury's and Earth's magnetotail are remarkable given the differences in upstream conditions, internal plasma composition, finite gyro-radius scaling, and Mercury's lack of ionosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678-686
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number2
Early online date28 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


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