X-ray observations of Mercury
thesisposted on 16.01.2015, 12:15 by Simon Thomas Lindsay
Data from MESSENGER and the GOES solar activity archive are used to deduce properties of Mercury and its X-ray environment in preparation for the forthcoming ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury. Data from MESSENGER’s X-ray spectrometer operations at Mercury exhibit background X-ray enhancements which are identified as the results of astrophysical sources crossing the instrument field of view and of electron bombardment of the X-ray spectrometer causing fluorescence within the instrument. These electron enhancements are analysed and mapped, leading to a three-dimensional representation of low-energy electron populations in the Mercury environment, the distributions of which are associated with features of Mercury’s magnetosphere, including the sunward magnetopause and magnetic equator. The population is characterised, producing estimates of low-energy electron number densities which are consistent with previous observations. Thus, the X-ray spectrometer functions as a proxy detector for electrons with energies below the threshold of dedicated electron detectors. Variations in seasonal X-ray background flux observed by the MESSENGER X-ray spectrometer are investigated, with a modulation visible with a periodicity of one Mercury year. Several telemetry parameters, including temperature, show corresponding variations. The origin of the variation in background flux is identified as the calculation in spacecraft telemetry relating instrument live time to instrument integration time, which varies on the same yearly period. The GOES solar activity archive is used to generate a model of solar X-ray flux levels, with the intention of providing an estimate of the levels of X-ray flux the BepiColombo mission will encounter, and subsequently the volume and rate of data that the MIXS instrument will produce. This model is used to predict the likelihood of the instrument experiencing data loss events by exceeding the data storage available, and how this likelihood varies with the level of solar flux and the onboard storage space that is allocated to the instrument.