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Giant magnetic space whirlpools give Mercury plasma shower

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 16:36

London: NASA`s Messenger spacecraft have detected Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, like on the Earth, around Mercury.

KH waves occur at the boundary between two fluids, such as two different bodies of air in Earth`s atmosphere. They are most visible on Earth in the form of strange wave-like clouds.

KH waves also occur in the magnetospheres of some planets.

These were discovered as huge swirls at the edge of Mercury`s magnetosphere – where the planet`s magnetic field meets the energetic charged particles of the solar wind.

Study of Messenger`s data suggests the waves are larger than thought – two to three times the size of their terrestrial counterparts – and occur 10 to 30 times more frequently too.

Messenger also found solar plasma in Mercury`s magnetosphere linked to the KH waves, suggesting the large waves shuttle plasma towards the planet.

“KH waves are more important for mass and energy transfer than we imagined,” New Scientist quoted Torbjorn Sundberg at NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as saying.


First Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 16:35

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