Articles | Volume 21, issue 11
30 Nov 2003
 | 30 Nov 2003

Modelling the solar wind interaction with Mercury by a quasi-neutral hybrid model

E. Kallio and P. Janhunen

Abstract. Quasi-neutral hybrid model is a self-consistent modelling approach that includes positively charged particles and an electron fluid. The approach has received an increasing interest in space plasma physics research because it makes it possible to study several plasma physical processes that are difficult or impossible to model by self-consistent fluid models, such as the effects associated with the ions’ finite gyroradius, the velocity difference between different ion species, or the non-Maxwellian velocity distribution function. By now quasi-neutral hybrid models have been used to study the solar wind interaction with the non-magnetised Solar System bodies of Mars, Venus, Titan and comets. Localized, two-dimensional hybrid model runs have also been made to study terrestrial dayside magnetosheath. However, the Hermean plasma environment has not yet been analysed by a global quasi-neutral hybrid model.

In this paper we present a new quasi-neutral hybrid model developed to study various processes associated with the Mercury-solar wind interaction. Emphasis is placed on addressing advantages and disadvantages of the approach to study different plasma physical processes near the planet. The basic assumptions of the approach and the algorithms used in the new model are thoroughly presented. Finally, some of the first three-dimensional hybrid model runs made for Mercury are presented.

The resulting macroscopic plasma parameters and the morphology of the magnetic field demonstrate the applicability of the new approach to study the Mercury-solar wind interaction globally. In addition, the real advantage of the kinetic hybrid model approach is to study the property of individual ions, and the study clearly demonstrates the large potential of the approach to address these more detailed issues by a quasi-neutral hybrid model in the future.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (planetary magnetospheres; solar wind-magnetosphere interactions) – Space plasma physics (numerical simulation studies)