Multi-Scale Kelvin-Helmholtz Vortices Along Mercury’s Magnetopause
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 1:58 PM
Data from the Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer (FIPS) and Magnetometer (MAG) sensors on the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft have revealed stark differences in the Kelvin-Helmholtz (K-H) instability at Mercury compared with that at Earth. Although K-H vortices have been documented in planetary magnetospheres at the interface of magnetosheath and magnetospheric plasmas, such features at Mercury have been observed exclusively on the dusk side. From a survey of 58 K-H events, we find that these vortices have two distinct sets of behavior separated by the dusk terminator. On the dayside, the wave frequencies measured by MAG are nearly constant at ~0.025 Hz (~40 s period) under a variety of magnetosheath conditions, whereas the wave frequency measured on the nightside is correlated with the strength of the magnetic field near the magnetopause and matches the local Na+ gyrofrequency. The polarization of these waves inside the magnetosphere is distinctly right-handed, consistent with non-linear roll-up of K-H vortices as opposed to the left-handed ion-cyclotron wave mode. During these events, measurements from FIPS reveal strong (~30%) concentrations of Na+ in the nightside plasma sheet adjacent to the magnetopause. The keV energies of these planetary ions provide them with gyroradii that are ~500-1000 km, a scale at which a kinetic description of the K-H instability may be appropriate at Mercury. These data suggest a transition from fluid-scale to kinetic scale K-H vortices from day to night along Mercury’s duskside magnetopause.