The thermal component of Mercury's electron population has never been measured. One scientific objective of the Plasma Wave Investigation consortium, PWI, is to determine the influence of the thermal plasma upon the formation and dynamics of the planetary magnetosphere, as a function of solar activity. The Active Measurement of Mercury's Plasma experiment, AM 2 P, has been proposed as part of PWI, to monitor the density and temperature of the thermal electron population, during the whole mission of the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter of BepiColombo. These two physical parameters will be deduced from the measurements of the self- and mutual-impedances of the MEFISTO (Mercury Electric Field In Situ TOol) double-sphere antenna, in a frequency range comprising the expected plasma frequency. The in situ measurement of the antenna impedance is also essential for calibrating the electric antenna which measures the natural waves; it will allow, in particular, the effective length of the antenna to be calculated as a function of frequency and plasma conditions. The purpose of this paper is to define the scientific objectives of AM 2 P, to explain the principle of the measurement, to describe the electronic device, and to show the ability of AM 2 P to make reliable and accurate measurements of the thermal plasma density and temperature in the Hermean magnetosphere, as well as in the solar wind at heliocentric distances of 0.31-0.47 AU. The potential performance of this instrument has been evaluated using both an analytical approach and numerical simulations.
- Active experiment
- BepiColombo mission
- Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter
- Mercury plasma environment
- Plasma density and electron temperature measurements
- Plasma Wave Investigation consortium