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Keywords:

  • Mercury;
  • flux transfer events;
  • reconnection

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 that is typically about half of the radius of the Earth. As early as 1985, scientists analyzing the Mariner 10 observations, collected during their 1974–1975 flybys, have known that FTEs also occur at Mercury. However, using the measurements returned from the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft now orbiting Mercury, Slavin et al. found that Mercurial flux transfer events are proportionally much larger, stronger, and more frequent than those at Earth.