Plasma boundaries at Mars: a 3-D simulation study
The interaction of the solar wind with the ionosphere of planet Mars is studied using a three-dimensional hybrid model. Mars has only a weak intrinsic magnetic field, and consequently its ionosphere is directly affected by the solar wind. The gyroradii of the solar wind protons are in the range of several hundred kilometers and therefore comparable with the characteristic scales of the interaction region. Different boundaries emerge from the interaction of the solar wind with the continuously produced ionospheric heavy-ion plasma, which could be identified as a bow shock (BS), ion composition boundary (ICB) and magnetic pile up boundary (MPB), where the latter both turn out to coincide. The simulation results regarding the shape and position of these boundaries are in good agreement with the measurements made by Phobos-2 and MGS spacecraft. It is shown that the positions of these boundaries depend essentially on the ionospheric production rate, the solar wind ram pressure, and the often unconsidered electron temperature of the ionospheric heavy ion plasma. Other consequences are rays of planetary plasma in the tail and heavy ion plasma clouds, which are stripped off from the dayside ICB region by some instability.
Key words. Magnetospheric physics (solar wind interactions with unmagnetized bodies) – Space plasma physics (discontinuities; numerical simulation studies)