A comparison of magnetohydrodynamic instabilities at the Martian ionopause

T. Penz, I. L. Arshukova, N. Terada, H. Shinagawa, N. V. Erkaev, H. K. Biernat, H. Lammer

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It is known from Pioneer Venus measurements that at the Venusian ionopause wave-like structures develop, which can detach in the form of ionospheric plasma clouds. This phenomenon is assumed to occur due to the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, which can appear in large regions of the Venusian ionopause. Recent studies of Mars Global Surveyor measurements indicate that wave-like structures and plasma clouds also detach from the Martian ionopause. Therefore, these features seem to be common for the solar wind interaction of non-magnetized planets. We study the conditions at the Martian ionopause with respect to the occurrence of several MHD instabilities. The conditions in the magnetosheath are modeled by a semi-analytical MHD simulation that includes mass loading. The ionospheric parameter needed for the model calculations are taken from a global hybrid model. The stability of the Martian ionopause against the Kelvin-Helmholtz, the Rayleigh-Taylor, and the interchange instability is analyzed. Further, we suggest that including the Hall term in the description of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability gives a current in the planetary boundary layer resulting in a shear flow compared with the ionospheric plasma, which can lead to an unstable boundary layer near the subsolar point. Since the interchange instability depends on the curvature of the magnetic field lines, we additionally study the influence of the strong curvature of the Martian ionopause due to the localized, remnant, crustal magnetism appearing mainly in the southern hemisphere of Mars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2049-2056
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Atmospheric loss
  • Instabilities
  • Magnetohydrodynamics
  • Mars


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