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Hybrid-Kinetic Modelling of Space Plasma with Application to Mercury Open Access


Other title
Planet Mercury
Numerical Modelling
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Paral, Jan
Supervisor and department
Rankin, Robert (Department of Physics)
Examining committee member and department
De Sterck, Hans (Department of Applied Mathematics)
Heimpel, Moritz (Department of Physics)
Sydora, Richard (Department of Physics)
Bowman, John C. (Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences)
Department of Physics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
A planet's magnetosphere is often very dynamic, undergoing large topological changes in response to high speed (~400 km/s) solar wind intervals, coronal mass ejections, and naturally excited plasma wave modes. Plasma waves are very effective at transporting energy throughout the magnetosphere, and are therefore of interest in the context of the coupling between solar wind and magnetosphere. Of relevance to this thesis is Kelvin-Helmholtz macro-instability. Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI) is excited by shear of the flows. KHI is commonly observed at equatorial regions of the magnetopause where fast flowing magnetosheath plasma may interact with slow bulk velocities of magnetospheric plasma. The instability is responsible for exciting shear Alfv'en waves which (at Earth) may be detected using the ground based magnetometers located at latitude of excited field lines. This thesis uses numerical modelling to understand and to explain the generation and propagation of the KHI in Mercury's magnetosphere. The instability is initiated close to the planet and convectively grows while being transported along the tail. When the wave amplitude reaches a nonlinear stage, the structure of the wave becomes complex due to the wrapping of the plasma into the vortex. A vortex structure is typical for KHI and it is used for identifying the wave in the data from satellites. The instability commonly occurs at the dawn or dusk flank magnetopause (MP) of Earth with approximately the same probability. But the data from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, currently in the orbit of the planet Mercury, suggest a strong asymmetry in the observations of KHI. It is shown that the KHI initiated near the subsolar point evolves into large-scale vortices propagating anti-sunward along the dusk-side MP. The simulations are in agreement with the third flyby of the MESSENGER spacecraft, where saw-tooth oscillations in the plasma density, flow, and magnetic field were observed. The observed asymmetry in the KHI between dawn and dusk is found to be controlled by the finite gyro-radius of ions, and by MP pressure gradients and the large-scale solar wind convection electric field.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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File title: Introduction
File title: Hybrid-Kinetic Modelling of Space Plasma with Application to Mercury
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