On the possible formation of Alfvén wings at Mercury during encounters with coronal mass ejections

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Abstract

[1] The solar wind conditions near Mercury's perihelion, especially during Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejection (ICME) events, will often be characterized by very low Alfvén Mach number (≤3). We suggest that the low Mach numbers and large north-south magnetic fields during ICMEs will lead to the formation of “Alfvén wings” that will affect the configuration of the Hermean magnetosphere. It is shown that an electrical conductance threshold of about 5 S, comparable to the Alfvén conductance in the solar wind, is required for generation of Alfvén wings at Mercury. Assuming crustal conductances above this value it is demonstrated that currents in the Alfvén wings and closing across the planetary surface will produce significant perturbations (≥10 nT) of the magnetospheric magnetic field.

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