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Keywords:

  • Kelvin-Helmholtz;
  • Mercury;
  • heavy ions;
  • low-latitude boundary layer

[1] We present a survey of Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) waves at Mercury's magnetopause during MESSENGER's first Mercury year in orbit. The waves were identified on the basis of the well-established sawtooth wave signatures that are associated with nonlinear KH vortices at the magnetopause. MESSENGER frequently observed such KH waves in the dayside region of the magnetosphere where the magnetosheath flow velocity is still subsonic, which implies that instability growth rates at Mercury's magnetopause are much larger than at Earth. We attribute these greater rates to the limited wave energy dissipation in Mercury's highly resistive regolith. The wave amplitude was often on the order of 100 nT or more, and the wave periods were ∼10–20 s. A clear dawn-dusk asymmetry is present in the data, in that all of the observed wave events occurred in the postnoon and duskside sectors of the magnetopause. This asymmetry is likely related to finite Larmor-radius effects and is in agreement with results from particle-in-cell simulations of the instability. The waves were observed almost exclusively during periods when the north-south component of the magnetosheath magnetic field was northward, a pattern similar to that for most terrestrial KH wave events. Accompanying plasma measurements show that the waves were associated with the transport of magnetosheath plasma into the magnetosphere.