Astrophysics/Space Physics Seminar – Dr. Gang Kai Poh | physics and astronomy

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Mercury’s Dynamic Magnetosphere:
From MESSENGER to the Bepi-Colombo era

Dr Gang Kai Poh

Being the closest planet to the Sun and one of the few planets visible in the night sky, Mercury has long fascinated astronomers ancient and modern alike. However, little is known about the surface and interior geophysics and space environment of the smallest planet in our solar system; it wasn’t until the start of the space age that we got a brief glimpse of the interaction between Mercury and its interplanetary environment with three flybys of the Mariner 10 spacecraft from 1974 to 1975. Decades later, MEcury, Surface, Space ENvironment, The GEOchemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft finally became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury in March 2011, after a six and a half year long journey to Mercury. Since then, the MESSENGER mission had revolutionized our understanding of Mercury’s dynamic magnetosphere and heliospheric environment with its in situ continuous fields and plasma measurements. In this symposium, we will review the current state of our knowledge of Mercury’s plasma environment and its interaction with extreme solar wind conditions in the inner heliosphere. Through data analysis and numerical modeling, we will discuss how extreme solar wind conditions in Mercury’s orbit become a powerful driver of intense interaction between solar wind and the small but dynamic magnetosphere of Mercury, and the global implications of these interactions. Finally, we will discuss the future of Mercury exploration with the upcoming ESA-JAXA Bepi-Colombo twin spacecraft mission to Mercury.

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