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Transport of solar wind into Earth's magnetosphere through rolled-up Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices

Transport of solar wind into Earth's magnetosphere through rolled-up Kelvin-Helmholtz vortices

Publication date: 13 August 2004

Authors: Hasegawa, H. et al.

Journal: Nature
Volume: 430
Page: 755-758
Year: 2004

Copyright: Nature Publishing Group

Establishing the mechanisms by which the solar wind enters Earth's magnetosphere is one of the biggest goals of magnetospheric physics, as it forms the basis of space weather phenomena such as magnetic storms and aurorae. It is generally believed that magnetic reconnection is the dominant process, especially during southward solar-wind magnetic field conditions when the solar-wind and geomagnetic fields are antiparallel at the low-latitude magnetopause. But the plasma content in the outer magnetosphere increases during northward solar-wind magnetic field conditions, contrary to expectation if reconnection is dominant. Here we show that during northward solar-wind magnetic field conditions - in the absence of active reconnection at low latitudes - there is a solar-wind transport mechanism associated with the nonlinear phase of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability. This can supply plasma sources for various space weather phenomena.

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