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Mercury's magnetic field: a thermoelectric dynamo?

Stevenson, D. J. (1987) Mercury's magnetic field: a thermoelectric dynamo? Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 82 (1-2). pp. 114-120. ISSN 0012-821X. doi:10.1016/0012-821X(87)90111-7.

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Permanent magnetism and conventional dynamo theory are possible but problematic explanations for the magnitude of the Mercurian magnetic field. A new model is proposed in which thermoelectric currents driven by temperature differences at a bumpy core-mantle boundary are responsible for the (unobserved) toroidal field, and the helicity of convective motions in a thin outer core (thickness ∼10^2 km) induces the observed poloidal field from the toroidal field. The observed field of ∼3 × 10^(−7) T can be reproduced provided the electrical conductivity of Mercury's semiconducting mantle approaches 10^3 Ω^(−1) m^(−1). This model may be testable by future missions to Mercury because it predicts a more complicated field geometry than conventional dynamo theories. However, it is argued that polar wander may cause the core-mantle topography to migrate so that some aspects of the rotational symmetry may be reflected in the observed field.

Item Type:Article
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Stevenson, D. J.0000-0001-9432-7159
Additional Information:© 1987 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. Received September 12, 1986; revised version received October 1986. I thank W. Kiefer and two referees for helpful comments and corrections. This work is supported by NASA Planetary Geophysics grant NAGW-185.
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NASA Planetary GeophysicsNAGW-185
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Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences4383
Issue or Number:1-2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130820-112003173
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Official Citation:D.J. Stevenson, Mercury's magnetic field: a thermoelectric dynamo?, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 82, Issues 1–2, March 1987, Pages 114-120, ISSN 0012-821X,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:40738
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:27 Aug 2013 17:22
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 00:08

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