Geophysical Research Letters

Dynamic Martian magnetosphere: Transient twist induced by a rotation of the IMF



[1] Simulation studies of the Martian environment are usually restricted to stationary situations under various steady conditions of the solar wind and solar radiation. Dynamic transients and their implications have so far attracted little attention although global simulation models can provide valuable insights to understand disagreements between simulations and in situ observations. We make use of a three dimensional multispecies hybrid simulation model to investigate the response of the Martian plasma environment to a sudden rotation of the IMF. The simulation model couples charged and neutral species via three ionisation mechanisms: the absorption of solar extreme ultraviolet radiation, the impact of solar wind electrons, and the charge exchange between ions and neutral atoms. When a rotational discontinuity conveyed by the solar wind reaches the Martian environment the bow shock adapts quickly to the new solar wind conditions in contrast to the induced magnetosphere, especially the magnetic lobes in the wake. Timescales necessary to recover a stationary state can be estimated from such simulations and have some implications for space observations especially in the use of magnetic field proxies and for organizing particle measurements made by a spacecraft like Mars Express without an onboard magnetometer.