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Auroral substorms triggered by 'short circuiting' of plasma flows

Auroral substorms triggered by 'short circuiting' of plasma flows


Date: 31 July 2020
Satellite: Cluster
Copyright: E.Mishin and A. Streltsov / Holzworth and Meng, NSSDC, NASA

When magnetic reconnection occurs in the magnetotail, it sends hot plasma flows (red) hurtling towards Earth which create the substorms. When the plasma flow impacts the plasmapause – the outer edge of Earth's plasmasphere – the electrons are halted and pile up at the boundary of the plasmasphere, creating turbulence. The ions from the plasma flow continue into the plasmasphere. Waves from the turbulent boundary layer then interact with electrons in the plasma sheet. This creates enhanced precipitation of electrons (the yellow arrow) that causes localized brightening in the auroral oval just before it breaks up into a substorm.

Last Update: 31 July 2020
13-Aug-2020 11:51 UT

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