Observations at Mercury Encounter by the Plasma Science Experiment on Mariner 10

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Science  12 Jul 1974:
Vol. 185, Issue 4146, pp. 145-151
DOI: 10.1126/science.185.4146.145


A fully developed bow shock and magnetosheath were observed near Mercury, providing unambiguous evidence for a strong interaction between Mercury and the solar wind. Inside the sheath there is a distinct region analogous to the magnetosphere or magnetotail of Earth, populated by electrons with lower density and higher temperature than the electrons observed in the solar wind or magnetosheath. At the time of encounter, conditions were such that a perpendicular shock was observed on the inbound leg and a parallel shock was observed on the outbound leg of the trajectory, and energetic plasma electron events were detected upstream from the outbound shock crossing. The interaction is most likely not atmospheric, but the data clearly indicate that the obstacle to solar wind flow is magnetic, either intrinsic or induced. The particle fluxes and energy spectra showed large variations while the spacecraft was inside the magnetosphere, and these variations could be either spatial or temporal.