High-frequency flux transfer events detected near Mercury

Nov 13, 2012
Mercury. Credit: NASA

The physical process that creates connections between the magnetic fields emanating from the Sun and a planet - a process known as magnetic reconnection - creates a portal through which solar plasma can penetrate the planetary magnetic field. The opening of these portals, known as flux transfer events (FTEs), takes place roughly every 8 minutes at Earth and spawns a rope of streaming plasma.

As early as 1985, scientists analyzing the Mariner 10 observations, collected during their 1974 and 1975 flybys, have known that FTEs also occur at Mercury.

However, using the measurements returned from the MErcury Surface, , , and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft now orbiting Mercury, Slavin et al. find that Mercurial flux transfer events are proportionally much larger, stronger, and more frequent than those at Earth.

Over a 25-minute period on 11 April 2011, MESSENGER detected 163 FTEs near the Mercurial magnetopause. The individual events took 2 to 3 seconds to move past the spacecraft, and the events were separated by 8 to 10 seconds.

Using a model of FTE motion, the authors find that the FTEs were likely initiated near the planet's southern magnetic pole before traveling to MESSENGER's location at the nightside magnetopause.

Modeling the changes in observed as the FTEs passed over MESSENGER, the authors determined that the FTEs had elliptical cross sections with a mean semimajor axis of about a sixth of the radius of Mercury.

The authors suggest that if MESSENGER had not orbited out of the path of the events emanating from the southern magnetic pole, then FTEs likely would have continued to be detected until the interplanetary magnetic field conditions became unfavorable for reconnection.

Explore further: Computer model shows moon's core surrounded by liquid and it's caused by Earth's gravity

More information: MESSENGER observations of a flux-transfer-event shower at Mercury, Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics, doi:10.1029/2012JA017926 , 2012

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Screeching Demon
1 / 5 (4) Nov 13, 2012
Ahh yes, more research involving magnetic reconnection. When will somebody apply this highly energetic phenomenon towards igniting a fusion reaction? All we have to do is look towards our own sun for answers. Add a dense hydrogen plasma, apply a resonant external magnetic field tuned to the plasma's frequency, and we should get enough energy to get the whole thing started. Of course, this is just another of my wild ideas that I have no way of testing myself... If only someone out there would listen, maybe one day...
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (3) Nov 14, 2012
"Magnetic roconnection is pseudo-science." Hannes Alfven

A "flux transfer event" or a "rope of streaming plasma" is in fact an electric current (birkeland current), they will find this same phenomenon connecting the Sun to all of it's planets. This is also the same phenomenon connecting Jupiter/Io causing the geological processes on Io, given enough time Io will eventually most likely look very much like Mercury does now.
SMILING HATRED
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2012
So cantdrive85 you are saying that all of the planets have their own specific planetary magnetic field that Is set at the exact right spot so that the sun is just barely able to penetrate the planets magnetic field with solar plasma causing a flux transfer event that creates a slight tug on the planet, and if the these flux transfer events are done at a small enough intervals then it will make up the force that keeps each planet from flying away from its solar system. The force that keeps a planet orbiting at the same distance from the sun for millions to billions of years. Perhaps the size of a planets magnetic feild is a direct correlation to the distance at witch it is placed from the sun.
I love it when my mind gets blown! This is a theory I just made up, it is how I perceived the information so do your research before accepting it as true. I am very new to the subject and am just basing this off of logic, intelligence and the information I found. And please correct me if I'm wrong
SMILING HATRED
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2012
I have several questions too:
1. What factors determine the size of a planets magnetic feild? (maybe its density, size, weight, or the amounts of specific elements)
2. Can the size of a planets magnetic feild change? What causes this change? Will this change have any effect on the planets distance to its sun?
3. If the planets FTEs are what keeps a planet from flying away from the sun then is it possible that it could also keep the planet from going to close to the sun? (creating a pushing force as well as a pulling force in order to stabalize a planets distance from its sun)
4. If FTEs keep a planet from flying away from its sun then would a similar process involving FTEs occur to keep a moon from flying away from its planet? What keeps the moon from flying away?
5. What causes are there for a planets magnetic field conditions to become unfavorable for reconnection?
6. As Screeching Demon suggested can this solar plasma be harnessed for energy?

Please educate me. Im open to new ideas