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High-latitude Earth's magnetopause outside the cusp: Cluster observations

High-latitude Earth's magnetopause outside the cusp: Cluster observations

Publication date: 31 January 2008

Authors: Panov, E.V. et al.

Journal: J. Geophys. Res.
Volume: 113
Issue: A01
ID: A01220
Year: 2008

Copyright: American Geophysical Union

We investigated the ambient plasma and magnetic field conditions at high latitudes, as well as the macroparameters of the magnetopause. For this purpose we used Cluster spacecraft plasma and magnetic field data when all the interspacecraft distances were less than 300 km. We analyzed 154 magnetosheath-magnetosphere transitions which allow to distinguish different boundaries between the magnetosphere and the magnetosheath. First, we found transitions similar to the low-latitude boundary layer, the plasma mantle, and cusp-associated transitions. Second, we estimated the length of these transitions. Third, we found with high statistical evidence sub-Alfvénic magnetosheath plasma flows just above the plasma mantle. These flows are supposed to stabilize magnetopause reconnection. Fourth, we carried out an analysis of the magnetopause pressure balance. We found a group of 24 transitions during which both the thermal and the magnetic magnetosheath pressure exceeded the magnetospheric pressure, providing conditions for unusual magnetopause formation. Fifth, for 52 magnetopause crossings we obtained the orientation as well as distributions of velocity, thickness, and current density of the magnetopause. It was found that the magnetopause with an attached plasma mantle moves slower, is thinner, and reaches higher current densities than the one with an adjacent low-latitude-like boundary layer. A comparison with the magnetopause at low latitudes revealed that the high-latitude magnetopause is about two times thicker.

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