Can other planets have storms even if they don't have an ionosphere? A team of scientists in the United States, Canada, and China have answered the question.

The research team found evidence that Mercury has a ring current, which is part of a magnetosphere, but excludes the poles. The Messenger space probe dropped towards the planet at the end of its mission on April 14, 2015.

The inner core of a planet creates a magnetic field that forms a bubble around it. The side opposite the Sun extends out like a comet and reaches up to 10 times the diameter of the Earth. The force of the solar wind interacts with it.

The planet is protected from particle radiation coming from the Sun and from the solar wind which is a stream of charged particles from the Sun. A superheated gas of charged particles is produced by the Sun when it produces coronal mass ejections. The planets in our solar system have magnetospheres as well.

Earth’s magnetosphere isn’t a sphere at all. The solar wind deforms it into an asymmetrical shape. Image Credit: NASA

A magnetic storm occurs when a CME hits the magnetosphere. A magnetic storm is a major cause of the magnetic field in a planet.

The research team discovered that Mercury has magnetic storms as well. They found that the ring current had been compressed from April 14, 2015, increasing its energy. The main phase of a magnetic storm is caused by the sudden intensification of a ring current.

Mercury has a very thin atmosphere. The particles hit the surface of the planet. Only emissions from the X-ray and Gamma-Ray range from the surface of Mercury have been reported so far.

This may mean that other planets, including exoplanets, have magnetic storms as well. The results obtained from Messenger provide a further fascinating insight into Mercury's place in the evolution of the solar system.


The image of Mercury is from its third flyby.