Cluster Measurements of Density Gradients
31 October 2001The Cluster four spacecraft measurements allow for the measurement of many differential quantities. The gradient of the electron density is one of them. This parameter is key in magnetospheric physics since it is involved in the motion of plasma boundaries and structures.
The electron density is deduced in this case from the plasma frequency measured by the WHISPER instrument. Then using the value of the density measured simultaneously at the four spacecraft, the gradient of the electron density, Grad(ne), can be calculated.
An example of a magnetopause crossing on 26 February 2001 is shown above in figure 1.
Each panel shows the vectors of Grad(ne) measured along the spacecraft center of mass trajectory in three GSE planes. In addition, the magnetopause motion calculated from the first crossing is also shown. At the beginning of the interval, the spacecraft were in the magnetosphere, characterized by tenuous plasma (lower middle panel), then they crossed the magnetopause around 0550 UT and went into the magnetosheath with a density about 15 cm-3 for about 6 minutes and finally re-enter the magnetosphere at about 0601 UT. In this example, the magnetopause motion is opposite to Grad(ne) (see opposite arrows); a sketch of this motion is shown on the right in figure 2.
These results were published in Décréau et al., Annales Geophysicae, 2001.
P.M.E. Décréau et al., Early results from the Whisper instrument on Cluster: an overview, Annales Geophysicae, vol. 19, Issue 10, pp.1241-1258, 2001