3D pic simulations of collisionless shocks at lunar magnetic anomalies and their role in forming lunar swirls

R. A. Bamford, E. P. Alves, F. Cruz, B. J. Kellett, R. A. Fonsesca, L. O. Silva, R. M. G. M. Trines, J. S. Halekas, G. Kamer, E. Harnett, Robert Alan Cairns, R. Bingham

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Investigation of the lunar crustal magnetic anomalies offers a comprehensive long-term data set of observations of small-scale magnetic fields and their interaction with the solar wind. In this paper a review of the observations of lunar mini-magnetospheres is compared quantifiably with theoretical kinetic-scale plasma physics and 3D particle-in-cell simulations. The aim of this paper is to provide a complete picture of all the aspects of the phenomena and to show how the observations from all the different and international missions interrelate. The analysis shows that the simulations are consistent with the formation of miniature (smaller than the ion Larmor orbit) collisionless shocks and miniature magnetospheric cavities, which has not been demonstrated previously. The simulations reproduce the finesse and form of the differential proton patterns that are believed to be responsible for the creation of both the "lunar swirls" and "dark lanes." Using a mature plasma physics code like OSIRIS allows us, for the first time, to make a side-by-side comparison between model and space observations. This is shown for all of the key plasma parameters observed to date by spacecraft, including the spectral imaging data of the lunar swirls. The analysis of miniature magnetic structures offers insight into multi-scale mechanisms and kinetic-scale aspects of planetary magnetospheres.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2016


  • Acceleration of particles
  • Moon
  • Magnetic fields
  • Planets and satellites: magnetic fields
  • Plasmas
  • Shock waves


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