Mercury's Dynamic Magnetosphere

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


This project will study the dynamics of the plasma environment of Mercury, using data from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, which has been in orbit around the planet since March 2011. Mercury is of particular interest because it represents an extreme situation amongst planetary magnetospheres in the solar system. Mercury's proximity to the Sun means that it is embedded in a region of very high solar wind density and strong interplanetary magnetic field. This extreme solar wind environment combined with the comparatively weak planetary magnetic field, result in the most strongly-driven and dynamic planetary magnetosphere in the solar system.

Data from the magnetometer and plasma instruments on the MESSENGER spacecraft will be used to address the questions:
What are Mercury's primary modes of response to such extreme solar wind driving?
Can the solar wind ever impinge directly on the planetary surface, and, if so, what are the implications for surface weathering?
Large scale current systems couple the inner and outer magnetosphere at the Earth, and close through the ionosphere. Mercury has no atmosphere or ionosphere; do these currents exist, and, if so, where do they close?


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Leyser R (2017) The Influence of IMF Clock Angle on Dayside Flux Transfer Events at Mercury in Geophysical Research Letters

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/N504117/1 30/09/2015 30/03/2021
1642999 Studentship ST/N504117/1 30/09/2015 31/03/2019 Roger Leyser