The Magnetometer Instrument on MESSENGER
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The Magnetometer (MAG) on the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission is a low-noise, tri-axial, fluxgate instrument with its sensor mounted on a 3.6-m-long boom. The boom was deployed on March 8, 2005. The primary MAG science objectives are to determine the structure of Mercury’s intrinsic magnetic field and infer its origin. Mariner 10 observations indicate a planetary moment in the range 170 to 350 nT R M 3 (where R M is Mercury’s mean radius). The uncertainties in the dipole moment are associated with the Mariner 10 trajectory and variability of the measured field. By orbiting Mercury, MESSENGER will significantly improve the determination of dipole and higher-order moments. The latter are essential to understanding the thermal history of the planet. MAG has a coarse range, ±51,300 nT full scale (1.6-nT resolution), for pre-flight testing, and a fine range, ±1,530 nT full scale (0.047-nT resolution), for Mercury operation. A magnetic cleanliness program was followed to minimize variable and static spacecraft-generated fields at the sensor. Observations during and after boom deployment indicate that the fixed residual field is less than a few nT at the location of the sensor, and initial observations indicate that the variable field is below 0.05 nT at least above about 3 Hz. Analog signals from the three axes are low-pass filtered (10-Hz cutoff) and sampled simultaneously by three 20-bit analog-to-digital converters every 50 ms. To accommodate variable telemetry rates, MAG provides 11 output rates from 0.01 s−1 to 20 s−1. Continuous measurement of fluctuations is provided with a digital 1–10 Hz bandpass filter. This fluctuation level is used to trigger high-time-resolution sampling in eight-minute segments to record events of interest when continuous high-rate sampling is not possible. The MAG instrument will provide accurate characterization of the intrinsic planetary field, magnetospheric structure, and dynamics of Mercury’s solar wind interaction.
KeywordsMercury MESSENGER Magnetometer Magnetic field Magnetosphere
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