Publication archive

Publication archive

Collisionless shocks are ubiquitous throughout the universe: around stars, supernova remnants, active galactic nuclei, binary systems, comets, and planets. Key information is carried by electromagnetic emissions from particles accelerated by high Mach number collisionless shocks. These shocks are intrinsically nonstationary, and the characteristic physical scales responsible for particle acceleration remain unknown. Quantifying these scales is crucial, as it affects the fundamental process of redistributing upstream plasma kinetic energy into other degrees of freedom—particularly electron thermalization. Direct in situ measurements of nonstationary shock dynamics have not been reported. Thus, the model that best describes this process has remained unknown. Here, we present direct evidence demonstrating that the transition to nonstationarity is associated with electron-scale field structures inside the shock ramp.
Published: 27 February 2019
Observations in kinetic scale field line resonances, or eigenmodes of the geomagnetic field, reveal highly field-aligned plateaued electron distributions. By combining observations from the Van Allen Probes and Cluster spacecraft with a hybrid kinetic gyrofluid simulation we show how these distributions arise from the nonlocal self-consistent interaction of electrons with the wavefield. This interaction is manifested as electron trapping in the standing wave potential. The process operates along most of the field line and qualitatively accounts for electron observations near the equatorial plane and at higher latitudes. In conjunction with the highly field-aligned plateaus, loss cone features are also evident, which result from the action of the upward-directed wave parallel electric field on the untrapped electron populations.
Published: 11 June 2018
The first estimation of the energy cascade rate |εC| of magnetosheath turbulence is obtained using the Cluster and THEMIS spacecraft data and an exact law of compressible isothermal magnetohydrodynamics turbulence. The mean value of |εC| is found to be close to 10-13  J m-3 s-1, at least 2 orders of magnitude larger than its value in the solar wind (~10-16  J m-3 s-1 in the fast wind). Two types of turbulence are evidenced and shown to be dominated either by incompressible Alfvénic or compressible magnetosoniclike fluctuations. Density fluctuations are shown to amplify the cascade rate and its spatial anisotropy in comparison with incompressible Alfvénic turbulence. Furthermore, for compressible magnetosonic fluctuations, large cascade rates are found to lie mostly near the linear kinetic instability of the mirror mode. New empirical power-laws relating |εC| to the turbulent Mach number and to the internal energy are evidenced. These new findings have potential applications in distant astrophysical plasmas that are not accessible to in situ measurements.
Published: 29 January 2018
Magnetic reconnection–the process responsible for many explosive phenomena in both nature and laboratory–is efficient at dissipating magnetic energy into particle energy. To date, exactly how this dissipation happens remains unclear, owing to the scarcity of multipoint measurements of the "diffusion region" at the sub-ion scale. Here we report such a measurement by Cluster–four spacecraft with separation of 1/5 ion scale. We discover numerous current filaments and magnetic nulls inside the diffusion region of magnetic reconnection, with the strongest currents appearing at spiral nulls (O-lines) and the separatrices. Inside each current filament, kinetic-scale turbulence is significantly increased and the energy dissipation, E' ⋅ j, is 100 times larger than the typical value. At the jet reversal point, where radial nulls (X-lines) are detected, the current, turbulence, and energy dissipations are surprisingly small. All these features clearly demonstrate that energy dissipation in magnetic reconnection occurs at O-lines but not X-lines.
Published: 12 January 2017
We present a statistical study of plasmaspheric plumes and ionospheric outflows observed by the Cluster spacecraft near the dayside magnetopause. Plasmaspheric plumes are identified when the low-energy ions (<1 keV) with ~90° pitch angle distributions are observed by the Cluster Ion Spectrometer/Hot Ion Analyzer instrument. The ionospheric outflows are characterized by unidirectional or bidirectional field-aligned pitch angle distributions of low-energy ions observed in the dayside magnetosphere. Forty-three (10%) plasmaspheric plume events and 32 (7%) ionospheric outflow events were detected out of the 442 times that C3 crossed the dayside magnetopause between 2007 and 2009. The occurrence rate of plumes at duskside is significantly higher than that at dawnside. The occurrence rate of outflows shows a weak dawn-dusk asymmetry. We investigate the dependence of the occurrence rates of plumes and ionospheric outflows on geomagnetic activity and on solar wind/interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions. The plume events tend to occur during southward IMF (duskward solar wind electric field) and moderate geomagnetic activity (Kp = 3, -30 ≤ Dst < -10 nT). However, the ionospheric outflow events tend to occur during northward IMF (dawnward solar wind electric field). The ionospheric outflows do not occur when Kp = 0, and the occurrence rate of the ionospheric outflows does not have a clear Dst dependence. Seventy-five percent (46%) of the outflows are observed in the duskside for negative (positive) IMF By. Conversely, 54% (25%) of the outflows are observed in the dawnside for positive (negative) IMF By. Finally, the occurrence rates of both plumes and outflows increase with solar wind dynamic pressure.
Published: 29 February 2016
Earthward propagating plasmoids in the Earth's magnetotail have been observed by satellites. Using a multifluid global magnetosphere simulation, earthward propagating plasmoids are reproduced when ionospheric O+ outflow is included in the global simulation. Controlled simulations show that without ionospheric outflow, the plasmoids generated in the magnetotail during a substorm-steady magnetospheric convection cycle only propagate tailward. With ionospheric outflow, earthward plasmoids can be induced through the modification of magnetotail reconnection at multiple X lines. When multiple X lines form in the magnetotail, plasmoids may be trapped between multiple reconnection sites. When magnetic reconnection rate is reduced at the near-Earth X line by the presence of ionospheric O+, the earthward exhaust flow of reconnection occurring at the midtail X line forces the plasmoid to propagate earthward. The propagation speed and spatial size of the simulated earthward plasmoid are consistent with observations from the Cluster satellites.
Published: 29 February 2016
A number of modes of oscillations of particles and fields can exist in space plasmas. Since the early 1970s, space missions have observed noise-like plasma waves near the geomagnetic equator known as 'equatorial noise'. Several theories were suggested, but clear observational evidence supported by realistic modelling has not been provided. Here we report on observations by the Cluster mission that clearly show the highly structured and periodic pattern of these waves. Very narrow-banded emissions at frequencies corresponding to exact multiples of the proton gyrofrequency (frequency of gyration around the field line) from the 17th up to the 30th harmonic are observed, indicating that these waves are generated by the proton distributions. Simultaneously with these coherent periodic structures in waves, the Cluster spacecraft observes 'ring' distributions of protons in velocity space that provide the free energy for the waves. Calculated wave growth based on ion distributions shows a very similar pattern to the observations.
Published: 14 July 2015
We show for the first time, with direct, multispacecraft calculations of electric current density, and other methods, matched signatures of field-aligned currents (FACs) sampled simultaneously near the ionosphere at low (~500 km altitude) orbit and in the magnetosphere at medium (~2.5 RE altitude) orbits using a particular Swarm and Cluster conjunction. The Cluster signatures are interpreted and ordered through joint mapping of the ground/magnetospheric footprints and estimation of the auroral zone boundaries (taken as indication of the boundaries of Region 1 and Region 2 currents). We find clear evidence of both small-scale and large-scale FACs and clear matching of the behavior and structure of the large-scale currents at both Cluster and Swarm. The methodology is made possible through the joint operations of Cluster and Swarm, which contain, in the first several months of Swarm operations, a number of close three-spacecraft configurations.
Published: 28 May 2015
In this study, we apply a new method–the first-order Taylor expansion (FOTE)–to find magnetic nulls and reconstruct magnetic field topology, in order to use it with the data from the forthcoming MMS mission. We compare this method with the previously used Poincare index (PI), and find that they are generally consistent, except that the PI method can only find a null inside the spacecraft (SC) tetrahedron, while the FOTE method can find a null both inside and outside the tetrahedron and also deduce its drift velocity. In addition, the FOTE method can (1) avoid limitations of the PI method such as data resolution, instrument uncertainty (Bz offset), and SC separation; (2) identify 3-D null types (A, B, As, and Bs) and determine whether these types can degenerate into 2-D (X and O); (3) reconstruct the magnetic field topology. We quantitatively test the accuracy of FOTE in positioning magnetic nulls and reconstructing field topology by using the data from 3-D kinetic simulations. The influences of SC separation (0.05~1 di) and null-SC distance (0~1 di) on the accuracy are both considered. We find that (1) for an isolated null, the method is accurate when the SC separation is smaller than 1 di, and the null-SC distance is smaller than 0.25~0.5 di; (2) for a null pair, the accuracy is same as in the isolated-null situation, except at the separator line, where the field is nonlinear. We define a parameter ξ ≡ |( λ1 + λ2 + λ3 )|/|λ|max in terms of the eigenvalues (λi) of the null to quantify the quality of our method–the smaller this parameter the better the results. Comparing to the previously used parameter (η≡|∇ ⋅ B|/|∇ × B|), ξ is more relevant for null identification.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]
Published: 27 May 2015
First published online: 19 March 2015

We present Cluster measurements of large amplitude electric fields correlated with intense downward field-aligned currents, observed during a nightside crossing of the auroral zone. The data are reproduced by a simple model of magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling which, under different conditions, can also produce a divergent electric field signature in the downward current region, or correlation between the electric and perturbed magnetic fields. We conclude that strong electric field associated with intense downward field-aligned current, such as this observation, is a signature of ionospheric plasma depletion caused by the downward current. It is also shown that the electric field in the downward current region correlates with downward current density if a background field is present, e.g., due to magnetospheric convection.

Published: 19 March 2015
The structure of Earth's magnetosphere is poorly understood when the interplanetary magnetic field is northward. Under this condition, uncharacteristically energetic plasma is observed in the magnetotail lobes, which is not expected in the textbook model of the magnetosphere. Using satellite observations, we show that these lobe plasma signatures occur on high-latitude magnetic field lines that have been closed by the fundamental plasma process of magnetic reconnection. Previously, it has been suggested that closed flux can become trapped in the lobe and that this plasma-trapping process could explain another poorly understood phenomenon: the presence of auroras at extremely high latitudes, called transpolar arcs. Observations of the aurora at the same time as the lobe plasma signatures reveal the presence of a transpolar arc. The excellent correspondence between the transpolar arc and the trapped closed flux at high altitudes provides very strong evidence of the trapping mechanism as the cause of transpolar arcs.
Published: 18 December 2014
On 21 January 2005, a moderate magnetic storm produced a number of anomalous features, some seen more typically during superstorms. The aim of this study is to establish the differences in the space environment from what we expect (and normally observe) for a storm of this intensity, which make it behave in some ways like a superstorm. The storm was driven by one of the fastest interplanetary coronal mass ejections in solar cycle 23, containing a piece of the dense erupting solar filament material. The momentum of the massive solar filament caused it to push its way through the flux rope as the interplanetary coronal mass ejection decelerated moving toward 1 AU creating the appearance of an eroded flux rope (see companion paper by Manchester et al. (2014)) and, in this case, limiting the intensity of the resulting geomagnetic storm. On impact, the solar filament further disrupted the partial ring current shielding in existence at the time, creating a brief superfountain in the equatorial ionosphere - an unusual occurrence for a moderate storm. Within 1 h after impact, a cold dense plasma sheet (CDPS) formed out of the filament material. As the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) rotated from obliquely to more purely northward, the magnetotail transformed from an open to a closed configuration and the CDPS evolved from warmer to cooler temperatures. Plasma sheet densities reached tens per cubic centimeter along the flanks - high enough to inflate the magnetotail in the simulation under northward IMF conditions despite the cool temperatures. Observational evidence for this stretching was provided by a corresponding expansion and intensification of both the auroral oval and ring current precipitation zones linked to magnetotail stretching by field line curvature scattering.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]
Published: 28 August 2014
The paper presents first results of the data-based modeling of the geomagnetospheric magnetic field, using the data of Polar, Geotail, Cluster, and Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms satellites, taken during the period 1995-2012 and covering 123 storm events with SYM-H > -200 nT. The most important innovations in the model are (1) taking into account the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF)-dependent shape of the model magnetopause, (2) a physically more consistent global deformation of the equatorial current sheet due to the geodipole tilt, (3) symmetric and partial components of the ring current are calculated based on a realistic background magnetic field, instead of a purely dipolar field, used in earlier models, and (4) the validity region on the nightside is extended to ~ 40-50 RE. The model field is confined within a magnetopause, based on Lin et al. (2010) empirical model, driven by the dipole tilt angle, solar wind pressure, and IMF Bz. A noteworthy finding is a significant dependence of the magnetotail flux connection across the equatorial plane on the model magnetopause flaring rate, controlled by the southward component of the IMF.
Published: 23 January 2014
The Cluster mission operated a "tilt campaign" during the month of May 2008. Two of the four identical Cluster spacecraft were placed at a close distance (~50 km) from each other and the spin axis of one of the spacecraft pair was tilted by an angle of ~46°. This gave the opportunity, for the first time in space, to measure global characteristics of AC electric field, at the sensitivity available with long boom (88 m) antennas, simultaneously from the specific configuration of the tilted pair of satellites and from the available base of three satellites placed at a large characteristic separation (~1 RE). This paper describes how global characteristics of radio waves, in this case the configuration of the electric field polarization ellipse in 3-D-space, are identified from in situ measurements of spin modulation features by the tilted pair, validating a novel experimental concept. In the event selected for analysis, non-thermal continuum (NTC) waves in the 15-25 kHz frequency range are observed from the Cluster constellation placed above the polar cap. The observed intensity variations with spin angle are those of plane waves, with an electric field polarization close to circular, at an ellipticity ratio e = 0.87. We derive the source position in 3-D by two different methods. The first one uses ray path orientation (measured by the tilted pair) combined with spectral signature of magnetic field magnitude at source. The second one is obtained via triangulation from the three spacecraft baseline, using estimation of directivity angles under assumption of circular polarization. The two results are not compatible, placing sources widely apart. We present a general study of the level of systematic errors due to the assumption of circular polarization, linked to the second approach, and show how this approach can lead to poor triangulation and wrong source positioning.
[Remainder of abstract truncated, due to character limitations]
Published: 26 November 2013
In the present work, we study the relations between the position of the plasmapause and the position of the radiation belt boundaries. The Cluster mission offers the exceptional opportunity to analyze those different regions of the inner magnetosphere with identical sensors on multiple spacecraft. We compare the positions of the radiation belt edges deduced from CIS (Cluster Ion Spectrometry) observations (electrons with energy >2 MeV) with the positions of the plasmapause derived from WHISPER (Waves of HIgh frequency and Sounder for Probing of the Electron density by Relaxation) data (electron plasma frequency). In addition, we compare those results with the edges positions determined from RAPID (Research with Adaptive Particle Imaging Detectors) observations (electrons with energy between 244.1 and 406.5keV). The period of 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2009 has been chosen for the analysis because at that time Cluster's perigee was located at lower radial distances than during the earlier part of the mission. The perigee was then as close as 2 RE, deep inside the plasmasphere and the radiation belts. This time period corresponds to a long solar activity minimum. Differences are observed between the radiation belt boundary positions obtained from the two different instruments: The radiation belt positions are related to the energy bands. The results show that the plasmapause position is more variable than the radiation belt boundary positions, especially during small geomagnetic activity enhancements. [Abstract truncated.]
Published: 26 August 2013
Plumes, forming at the plasmapause and released outwards, constitute a well-established mode for plasmaspheric material release to the Earth's magnetosphere. They are associated to active periods and the related electric field change. In 1992, Lemaire and Shunk proposed the existence of an additional mode for plasmaspheric material release to the Earth's magnetosphere: a plasmaspheric wind, steadily transporting cold plasmaspheric plasma outwards across the geomagnetic field lines, even during prolonged periods of quiet geomagnetic conditions. This has been proposed on a theoretical basis. Direct detection of this wind has, however, eluded observation in the past. Analysis of ion measurements, acquired in the outer plasmasphere by the CIS experiment onboard the four Cluster spacecraft, provide now an experimental confirmation of the plasmaspheric wind. This wind has been systematically detected in the outer plasmasphere during quiet and moderately active conditions, and calculations show that it could provide a substantial contribution to the magnetospheric plasma populations outside the Earth's plasmasphere. Similar winds should also exist on other planets, or astrophysical objects, quickly rotating and having an atmosphere and a magnetic field.
Published: 2 July 2013
The mechanism that produces energetic electrons during magnetic reconnection is poorly understood. This is a fundamental process responsible for stellar flares, substorms, and disruptions in fusion experiments. Observations in the solar chromosphere and the Earth's magnetosphere indicate significant electron acceleration during reconnection, whereas in the solar wind, energetic electrons are absent. Here we show that energetic electron acceleration is caused by unsteady reconnection. In the Earth's magnetosphere and the solar chromosphere, reconnection is unsteady, so energetic electrons are produced; in the solar wind, reconnection is steady, so energetic electrons are absent. The acceleration mechanism is quasi-adiabatic: betatron and Fermi acceleration in outflow jets are two processes contributing to electron energization during unsteady reconnection. The localized betatron acceleration in the outflow is responsible for at least half of the energy gain for the peak observed fluxes.
Published: 25 June 2013
The energy transport of bursty bulk flows (BBFs) is very important to the understanding of substorm energy transport. Previous studies all use the MHD bulk parameters to calculate the energy flux density of BBFs. In this paper, we use the kinetic approach, i.e., ion velocity distribution function, to study the energy transport of an earthward bursty bulk flow observed by Cluster C1 on 30 July 2002. The earthward energy flux density calculated using kinetic approach Q_Kx is obviously larger than that calculated using MHD bulk parameters Q_MHDx. The mean ratio Q_Kx/Q_MHDx in the flow velocity range 200-800 km/s is 2.7, implying that the previous energy transport of BBF estimated using MHD approach is much underestimated. The underestimation results from the deviation of ion velocity distribution from ideal Maxwellian distribution. The energy transport of BBF is mainly provided by ions above 10 keV although their number density N_f is much smaller than the total ion number density N. The ratio Q_Kx/Q_MHDx is basically proportional to the ratio N/N_f. The flow velocity v(E) increases with increasing energy. The ratio N_f/N is perfectly proportional to flow velocity V_x. A double ion component model is proposed to explain the above results. The increase of energy transport capability of BBF is important to understanding substorm energy transport. It is inferred that for a typical substorm, the ratio of the energy transport of BBF to the substorm energy consumption may increase from the previously estimated 5% to 34% or more.
Published: 9 April 2013
Published online: 27 March 2013

We study in detail high-frequency (HF) plasma waves between the electron cyclotron and plasma frequencies within a reconnection diffusion region (DR) encountered by Cluster in the magnetotail using continuous electric field waveforms. We identify three wave types, all observed within the separatrix regions: Langmuir waves (LW), electrostatic solitary waves (ESWs), and electron cyclotron waves (ECWs). This is the first time the ECWs have been observed inside this region. Direct comparison between waveforms and electron distributions are made at the timescale of one energy sweep of the electron detector (125 ms). Based on the wave and electron distribution characteristics, we find that the separatrix region has a stratified spatial structure. The outer part of the region is dominated by LW emissions related to suprathermal electron beams propagating away from the X-line. Furthest in, nearest to the current sheet, we observe ESWs associated with counterstreaming electron populations. Studying HF waveforms allows for a precise mapping of kinetic boundaries in the reconnection region and helps to improve our understanding of the electron dynamics in the DR.

Published: 27 March 2013
We investigate and compare Cluster observations of electron dynamics in different locations of the ion diffusion region for magnetic reconnection in the Earth's magnetotail. On the basis of the 2-D reconstructed magnetic field map from Cluster 1 (C1), we pinpoint that the observed Hall field is ~6000 km (~9 ion inertial lengths) away from the magnetic X-point, and reveal that C3 was the one in closest proximity to the X-point at the time when the reconnection jet reversal was simultaneously seen by three spacecraft, namely, C1, C3, and C4. No evidence is found for strong wave emission and energetic electron enhancement near to the X-point, as compared to that within the diffusion region. We find that (1) the Hall current loop is mainly carried by the low-energy, field-aligned counterstreaming electrons; (2) a flat-top distribution in phase space density is a common feature for Hall-related electrons; (3) an enhancement of energetic electrons is observed together with the presence of the flat-top electrons; and (4) electromagnetic wave emission is enhanced within the diffusion region. Two different regions of field-aligned counterstreaming (FC) electrons are identified: one is associated with the Hall current loop (i.e., the electron flow reversal) while another one stays at the edge of the loop. Interestingly, observations show that at the transition between the two FC regions, the waves seem to suppress the energetic electrons but to promote the flat-top electrons.
Published: 22 December 2012
17-Sep-2019 18:59 UT

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