Estimation of a planetary magnetic field using a reduced magnetohydrodynamic model
Knowledge of planetary magnetic fields provides deep insights into the structure and dynamics of planets. Due to the interaction of a planet with the solar wind plasma, a rather complex magnetic environment is generated. The situation at planet Mercury is an example of the complexities occurring as this planet’s field is rather weak and the magnetosphere rather small. New methods are presented to separate interior and exterior magnetic field contributions which are based on a dynamic inversion approach using a reduced magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) model and time-varying spacecraft observations. The methods select different data such as bow shock location information or magnetosheath magnetic field data. Our investigations are carried out in preparation for the upcoming dual-spacecraft BepiColombo mission set out to precisely estimate Mercury’s intrinsic magnetic field. To validate our new approaches, we use THEMIS magnetosheath observations to estimate the known terrestrial dipole moment. The terrestrial magnetosheath provides observations from a strongly disturbed magnetic environment, comparable to the situation at Mercury. Statistical and systematic errors are considered and their dependence on the selected data sets are examined. Including time-dependent upstream solar wind variations rather than averaged conditions significantly reduces the statistical error of the estimation. Taking the entire magnetosheath data along the spacecraft’s trajectory instead of only the bow shock location into account further improves accuracy of the estimated dipole moment.