The Global Magnetic Field of Mercury from MESSENGER Orbital Observations

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Science  30 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6051, pp. 1859-1862
DOI: 10.1126/science.1211001

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Magnetometer data acquired by the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit about Mercury permit the separation of internal and external magnetic field contributions. The global planetary field is represented as a southward-directed, spin-aligned, offset dipole centered on the spin axis. Positions where the cylindrical radial magnetic field component vanishes were used to map the magnetic equator and reveal an offset of 484 ± 11 kilometers northward of the geographic equator. The magnetic axis is tilted by less than 3° from the rotation axis. A magnetopause and tail-current model was defined by using 332 magnetopause crossing locations. Residuals of the net external and offset-dipole fields from observations north of 30°N yield a best-fit planetary moment of 195 ± 10 nanotesla-RM3, where RM is Mercury’s mean radius.

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