MESSENGER Observations of Standing Whistler Waves Upstream of Bow Shock
This paper reports on the standing whistler waves upstream of Mercury’s
quasi-perpendicular bow shock. Using MESSENGER’s magnetometer data, 36
wave events were identified during interplanetary coronal mass ejections
(ICMEs). These elliptic or circular polarized waves were characterized
by: (1) a constant phase with respect to the shock, (2) propagation
along the normal direction to the shock surface, and (3) rapid damping
over a few wave periods. We inferred the speed of Mercury’s bow shock as
~31 km/s and a shock width of 1.76 ion inertial length.
These events were observed in 20% of the MESSENGER orbits during ICMEs.
We conclude that standing whistler wave generations at Mercury are
generic to ICME impacts and the low Alfvén Mach number (MA)
collisionless shock, and are not affected by the absolute dimensions of
its bow shock. Our results further support the theory that these waves
are generated by the current in the shock.