DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 23. Planetary Bookends I
Oral, Chairs: W. B. McKinnon and W. M. Grundy, Thursday, September 4, 2003, 10:30am-12:00noon, DeAnza I-II

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[23.08] Space Weathering at Mercury: Solar Energetic Particles and Pickup Ion Trajectories

P. L. Koehn, T. H. Zurbuchen (University of Michigan), K. Kabin (University of Alberta)

The plasma environment at Mercury is a rich laboratory for studying the interaction of particles of solar origin with a planetary magnetosphere and surface. High speed solar wind flows buffet the magnetosphere of Mercury, occasionally compressing the magnetopause to within one proton gyroradius of the planet's surface. This allows the direct interaction of the solar wind with the crust, creating a population of sputtered neutrals. These neutrals, in turn, are quickly ionized and can escape the planet along open magnetic field lines as pickup ions. In addition, solar energetic particle (SEP) events impacting Mercury scour the surface, contributing to the sputtered population of neutrals and pickup ions.

In this work we follow the trajectories of inbound SEPs and solar wind particles and study their interaction with a detailed three dimensional MHD simulation of the Hermean magnetosphere. Particles penetrating to the surface create an ionized population of sputtered particles, and the outbound trajectories of the resulting pickup ions are followed. It will be shown that this interaction generates both particle transport along the surface of the planet, as well as pickup ions whose trajectories can be mapped back to their latitude of origin. This will be of particular interest once the MESSENGER orbiter and its payload of particle and field sensors arrive at Mercury in 2009.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: koehn@umich.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.