Special Reports

The Structure of Mercury's Magnetic Field from MESSENGER's First Flyby

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Science  04 Jul 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5885, pp. 82-85
DOI: 10.1126/science.1159081

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During its first flyby of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft measured the planet's near-equatorial magnetic field. The field strength is consistent to within an estimated uncertainty of 10% with that observed near the equator by Mariner 10. Centered dipole solutions yield a southward planetary moment of 230 to 290 nanotesla RM3 (where RM is Mercury's mean radius) tilted between 5° and 12° from the rotation axis. Multipole solutions yield non-dipolar contributions of 22% to 52% of the dipole field magnitude. Magnetopause and tail currents account for part of the high-order field, and plasma pressure effects may explain the remainder, so that a pure centered dipole cannot be ruled out.

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