ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
A numerical model for wave propagation in an unstable plasma with inhomogeneities is developed. This model describes the linear interaction of Langmuir wave packets with an electron beam and takes into account the angular diffusion of the wave vector due to wave scattering on small-amplitude density fluctuations, as well as suppression of the instability caused by the removal of the wave from the resonance with particles during crossing density perturbations of relatively large amplitude. Using this model, the evolution of the wave packets in inhomogeneous plasmas with an electron beam is studied. To analyze data obtained both in space experiments and numerical modeling, a Pearson technique was used to classify the spectral density distributions. It was shown that both experimental distributions obtained within the Earth's foreshock aboard the CLUSTER spacecraft and model distributions for the logarithm of wave intensity belong to Pearson type IV rather than normal. The main reason for deviations of empirical distributions from the normal one is that the effective number of regions where the waves grow is not very large and, as a consequence, the central limit theorem fails to be true under the typical conditions for the Earth's electron foreshock. For large amplitudes, it is suggested that power law tails can result from variations of wave amplitudes due to changes of group velocity in the inhomogeneous plasma, in particular due to reflection of waves from inhomogeneities.
Published: 27 October 2007
Observations at the Earth's magnetopause identify mode conversion from surface to kinetic Alfvén waves at the Alfvén resonance. Kinetic Alfvén waves radiate into the magnetosphere from the resonance with parallel scales up to the order of the geomagnetic field-line length and spectral energy densities obeying a kperp.-2.4 power law. Amplitudes at the Alfvén resonance are sufficient to both demagnetize ions across the magnetopause and provide field-aligned electron bursts. These waves provide diffusive transport across the magnetopause sufficient for boundary layer formation.
Published: 27 October 2007
Double Star/TC-1 and Cluster data show that both component reconnection and anti-parallel reconnection occur at the magnetopause when the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is predominantly dawnward. The occurrence of these different features under these very similar IMF conditions are further confirmed by a statistical study of 290 fast flows measured in both the low and high latitude magnetopause boundary layers. The directions of these fast flows suggest a possible S-shaped configuration of the reconnection X-line under such a dawnward dominated IMF orientation.
Published: 17 October 2007
With Cluster observations in the magnetotail we study dynamics of plasma sheet thinning and stretching during 39 intervals associated with substorm growth phases. The cross-tail current density and normal magnetic field generally scale as Bn ~ TpNp 1/2/J0, but with frequent transient variations. Typical pre-onset values are Bz ~1-2 nT, Jo ~ 4-8 nA/m², thickness (Harris estimate) >3000 km. A current density increase in each particular event is not accompanied with a corresponding number density increase. About 30% of the events are characterized by a large (>5 nT) field component parallel to the current (in most of cases equal to By), implying adiabatic particle dynamics even with small Bz. Most local onsets, associated with the ends of thin sheet intervals, were accompanied with tailward plasma flows. In some cases embedded current sheet structure was detected and, therefore, estimation of thickness requires caution.
Published: 17 October 2007
Particle-in-cell simulations of collisionless magnetic reconnection are presented that demonstrate that reconnection remains fast in very large systems. The electron dissipation region develops a distinct two-scale structure along the outflow direction. Consistent with fast reconnection, the length of the electron current layer stabilizes and decreases with decreasing electron mass, approaching the ion inertial length for a proton-electron plasma. Surprisingly, the electrons form a super-Alfvénic outflow jet that remains decoupled from the magnetic field and extends large distances downstream from the x line.
Published: 10 October 2007
Cluster data from many different intervals in the magnetospheric plasmas sheet and the solar wind are employed to determine the magnetic Taylor microscale from simultaneous multiple point measurements. For this study we define the Taylor scale as the square root of the ratio of the mean square magnetic field (or velocity) fluctuations to the mean square spatial derivatives of their fluctuations. The Taylor scale may be used, in the assumption of a classical Ohmic dissipation function, to estimate effective magnetic Reynolds numbers, as well as other properties of the small scale turbulence. Using solar wind magnetic field data, we have determined a Taylor scale value of 2400 ± 100 km, which is used to obtain an effective magnetic Reynolds number of about 260,000 ± 20,000, and in the plasma sheet we calculated a Taylor scale of 1900 ± 100 km, which allowed us to obtain effective magnetic Reynolds numbers in the range of about 7 to 110. The present determination makes use of a novel extrapolation technique to derive a statistically stable estimate from a range of small scale measurements. These results may be useful in magnetohydrodynamic modeling of the solar wind and the magnetosphere and may provide constraints on kinetic theories of dissipation in space plasmas.
Published: 04 October 2007
High-resolution ion observations made in recent years, by the TIMAS instrument on the Polar satellite and other instruments, reveal a dynamic and finely structured plasma sheet, at least at high latitude. This study invokes multipoint Cluster observations with the CIS CODIF instruments (ion composition and distribution function) to determine whether transverse density gradients can be of the order of keV proton gyroradii scale size, as suggested by the TIMAS observations. It is shown that the plasma sheet is indeed prominently filamentary and that the proton density with 40 eV <= E <= 40 keV can vary by Delta n = 0.4 cm-3 across less than five average proton gyroradii at R ~ 5 RE (average E ~ 7.5 keV at the time). This compares favorably with typical 10-km-size (or less) auroral structures when projected earthward.
Published: 22 September 2007
The evolution of the electron distribution function through quasi-perpendicular collisionless shocks is believed to be dominated by the electron dynamics in the large-scale coherent and quasi-stationary magnetic and electric fields. We investigate the electron distributions measured on board Cluster by the Plasma Electron and Current Experiment (PEACE) instrument during three quasi-perpendicular bow shock crossings. Observed distributions are compared with those predicted by electron dynamics resulting from conservation of the first adiabatic invariant and energy in the de Hoffmann-Teller frame, for all pitch angles and all types of trajectories (passing and, for the first time, reflected or trapped). The predicted downstream velocity distributions are mapped from upstream measurements using an improved Liouville mapping technique taking into account the overshoots. Furthermore, for one of these crossings we could take advantage of the configuration of the Cluster quartet to compare mapped upstream velocity distributions with those simultaneously measured at a relatively well magnetically connected downstream location. Consequences of energy and adiabatic invariant conservation are found to be compatible with the observed electron distributions, confirming the validity of electron "heating" theories based on DC fields as zeroth-order approximations, but some systematic deviations are found between the dynamics of low- and high-adiabatic invariant electrons. Our approach also provides a way to estimate the cross-shock electric potential profile making full use of the electron measurements, and the results are compared to other estimates relying on the steady state dissipationless electron fluid equations. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 19 September 2007
Local acceleration is required to explain electron flux increases in the outer Van Allen radiation belt during magnetic storms. Here we show that fast magnetosonic waves, detected by Cluster 3, can accelerate electrons between ~10 keV and a few MeV inside the outer radiation belt. Acceleration occurs via electron Landau resonance, and not Doppler shifted cyclotron resonance, due to wave propagation almost perpendicular to the ambient magnetic field. Using quasi-linear theory, pitch angle and energy diffusion rates are comparable to those for whistler mode chorus, suggesting that these waves are very important for local electron acceleration. Since pitch angle diffusion does not extend into the loss cone, these waves, on their own, are not important for loss to the atmosphere. We suggest that magnetosonic waves, which are generated by unstable proton ring distributions, are an important energy transfer process from the ring current to the Van Allen radiation belts.
Published: 16 September 2007
The normal electric field structure of a supercritical (Mms = 5.2), quasiperpendicular (tetaBn = 70°) collisionless shock is examined using Cluster four-spacecraft observations of the terrestrial bow shock. Comparing the observed electric field with magnetic field and plasma observations, two different techniques find that the J x B/ne term in the generalized Ohm's law accounts for a majority of the large-scale normal electric field and potential drop encountered by the ions - the solar wind ion deceleration is in good empirical agreement with the observed potential drop, confirming earlier work. Large amplitude electric field fluctuations on shorter timescales, corresponding to fine scale structure, are not observed to contribute to the ion energization.
Published: 14 September 2007
Most satellite-based in situ plasma experiments are affected in some manner by the electrostatic structure surrounding the spacecraft. In order to better understand this structure, we have developed a fully three-dimensional self-consistent model that can accept realistic spacecraft geometry, including both thin (~10-4 m) wires and long (~10² m) booms, with open boundary conditions. The model uses an integral formulation incorporating boundary element, multigrid and fast multipole methods to overcome problems associated with the large range in scale sizes and inherently three-dimensional structure. By applying the model to the Cluster spacecraft, we show that the electric potential structure is dominated by the charge on the wire booms, with the spacecraft body contributing at small distances. Consequently, the potential near the EFW (Electric Fields and Waves experiment) probes at the end of the wire booms is typically significantly above the true plasma potential. For the Cluster spacecraft, we show that this effect causes a 19% underestimation of the spacecraft potential and 13% underestimation of the ambient electric field. We further assess the electric field due to the sunward-oriented photoelectron cloud, showing that the cloud contributes little to the observed spurious sunward field in the EFW data.
Published: 14 September 2007
The present study examines a sawtooth injection event that took place around 0800 UT on 18 April 2002 when the Cluster spacecraft were located in the inner magnetosphere in the premidnight sector. In association with this injection, Cluster, at a radial distance of 4.6 RE , observed that the local magnetic field became more dipolar and that both ion and electron fluxes increased without notable energy dispersion. These features were accompanied by intensifications of the equatorward component of a double-oval structure and also by an enhancement of the ring-current oxygen ENA flux. The event was also accompanied by large magnetic field (a few tens of nT) and electric field (a few tens of mV/m) fluctuations with characteristic timescales of a few tens of seconds. These observations strongly suggest that this sawtooth injection extended not only widely in local time but also deeply into the inner magnetosphere. Interestingly, Cluster repeatedly observed dipolarization-like signatures afterward, which, however, were not associated with enhancements of local energetic ion flux or with geosynchronous dipolarization or injection signatures. Instead, these magnetic signatures were accompanied by oscillatory plasma motion in the radial direction with a characteristic timescale of about 10 min, which appears to be related to the westward propagation of a spatially periodic auroral structure. The associated azimuthal electric field component was well correlated with the time derivative of the north-south magnetic field component, suggesting that the observed electric field is inductive. These findings suggest that electromagnetic processes far inside geosynchronous orbit play an important role in energization of energetic ions and auroral dynamics during magnetospheric storms.
Published: 01 September 2007
We present observations of three magnetic flux ropes in the tail of the Earth's magnetosphere on 7 August 2004 by the Cluster and Double Star TC-1 spacecraft. The first two flux rope signatures were observed, near-simultaneously, by Cluster and TC-1, which were located at (-16.3, -8.7, 0.10) RE GSM and (-10.3, -7.11, 0.81) RE GSM, respectively, a separation of 6.3 RE. A third signature was observed some four minutes later by two of the four Cluster spacecraft, while the other two spacecraft observed a feature resembling a Travelling Compression Region (TCR). These observations are interpreted as three individual flux ropes existing in the magnetotail, the first two, at least, simultaneously. The formation mechanism of the flux ropes and the consequences of their presence for the structure of the magnetotail on this day are discussed in the context of multiple X-point reconnection.
Published: 30 August 2007
Bursty bulk flow associated magnetic fluctuations exhibit at least three spectral scaling ranges in the Earth's plasma sheet. Two of the three scaling ranges can be associated with multi-scale magnetohydrodynamic turbulence between the spatial scales from ~100 km to several RE (RE is the Earth's radius). These scales include the inertial range and below ~0.5 RE a steepened scaling range, theoretically not fully understood yet. It is shown that, in the near-Earth plasma sheet, the inertial range can be robustly identified only if multi-scale quasi stationary (MSQS) data intervals are selected. Multiple bursty flow associated magnetic fluctuations, however, exhibit 1/f type scaling indicating that large-scale fluctuations are controlled by multiple uncorrelated driving sources of the bulk flows (e.g. magnetic reconnection, instabilities).
Published: 25 September 2007
We investigate the effect of slow expansion on a magnetosheath plasma and low-frequency waves using a two-dimensional hybrid expanding box simulation. We start our simulation with a homogeneous high beta plasma, which is marginally stable to the mirror and proton cyclotron instabilities. The expansion is imposed as an external force: the physical size of the simulation box increases in two dimensions: one parallel and one perpendicular with respect to the ambient magnetic field. This expansion leads to a continuous decrease of proton beta and drives an increase of the proton temperature anisotropy. In the early stages of the simulation, both mirror and proton cyclotron waves appear. The system establishes a marginally stable state with respect to both mirror and proton cyclotron instabilities. Initially, the mirror waves dominate the proton cyclotron waves, even when the system is below the linear mirror threshold, but as time increases the proton cyclotron waves become dominant in the low beta region. We also include an initial comparison of the simulated data with Cluster observations.
Published: 08 August 2007
Based on drift velocity measurements of the EDI instruments on Cluster during the years 2001-2006, we have constructed a database of high-latitude ionospheric convection velocities and associated solar wind and magnetospheric activity parameters. In an earlier paper (Haaland et al., 2007), we have described the method, consisting of an improved technique for calculating the propagation delay between the chosen solar wind monitor (ACE) and Earth's magnetosphere, filtering the data for periods of sufficiently stable IMF orientations, and mapping the EDI measurements from their high-altitude positions to ionospheric altitudes. The present paper extends this study, by looking at the spatial pattern of the variances of the convection velocities as a function of IMF orientation, and by performing sortings of the data according to the IMF magnitude in the GSM y-z plane, |ByzIMF|, the estimated reconnection electric field, Er,sw, the solar wind dynamic pressure, Pdyn, the season, and indices characterizing the ring current (Dst) and tail activity (ASYM-H). The variability of the high-latitude convection shows characteristic spatial patterns, which are mirror symmetric between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres with respect to the IMF By component. The latitude range of the highest variability zone varies with IMF Bz similar to the auroral oval extent. The magnitude of convection standard deviations is of the same order as, or even larger than, the convection magnitude itself. Positive correlations of polar cap activity are found with |ByzIMF| and with Er,sw, in particular. The strict linear increase for small magnitudes of Er,sw starts to deviate toward a flattened increase above about 2 mV/m. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 31 July 2007
Simultaneous observations by the Cluster spacecraft and SuperDARN radars are presented of magnetotail flux transport during northward, but BY-dominated IMF. Two events are discussed, which occurred on 14 August 2004 and 17 September 2005, during intervals of negative and positive IMF BY, respectively. During both intervals the Cluster spacecraft observed isolated bursts of Earthward plasma convection in the central plasma sheet. During the first event, the flows observed by Cluster also had a significant Vperp.Y component in the duskward direction, consistent with westward azimuthal flows observed in the midnight sector by the Northern Hemisphere SuperDARN radars. During the second event, Cluster 4 observed a significant dawnward Vperp.Y component, again consistent with the Northern Hemisphere SuperDARN observations which revealed eastward azimuthal flow. In this instance, however, Cluster 3 observed a duskward Vperp.Y component which was more consistent with the duskward sense of the convection observed by the Southern Hemisphere SuperDARN radars. This implies that Cluster 3 and Cluster 4 were located on different field lines which experienced opposite net azimuthal forces and hence observed oppositely directed convection. These observations are consistent with previous SuperDARN studies of nightside flows under northward IMF and, more importantly, provide the first simultaneous in-situ evidence for a mode of tail reconnection occurring during non-substorm intervals in an asymmetric tail.
Published: 31 July 2007
The simple model of reconnected field line motion developed by Cooling et al. (2001) has been used in several recent case studies to explain the motion of flux transfer events across the magnetopause. We examine 213 FTEs observed by all four Cluster spacecraft under a variety of IMF conditions between November 2002 and June 2003, when the spacecraft tetrahedron separation was ~5000 km. Observed velocities were calculated from multi-spacecraft timing analysis, and compared with the velocities predicted by the Cooling model in order to check the validity of the model. After excluding three categories of FTEs (events with poorly defined velocities, a significant velocity component out of the magnetopause surface, or a scale size of less than 5000 km), we were left with a sample of 118 events. 78% of these events were consistent in both direction of motion and speed with one of the two model de Hoffmann-Teller (dHT) velocities calculated from the Cooling model (to within 30° and a factor of two in the speed). We also examined the plasma signatures of several magnetosheath FTEs; the electron signatures confirm the hemisphere of connection indicated by the model in most cases. This indicates that although the model is a simple one, it is a useful tool for identifying the source regions of FTEs.
Published: 31 July 2007
We present a study of the plasma properties inside and dynamics of the low-latitude boundary layer (LLBL)/cusp during the ICME event on 7 November 2004 based on data from the four Cluster spacecraft. The interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is predominantly strongly northward, up to 50 nT, with some short-duration rotations. The observed LLBL/cusp is very thick (~6 - 7° invariant latitude (ILAT)) and migrates equatorward with rates of 0.55° and 0.04° ILAT per minute during quick southward IMF rotations and stable northward IMF, respectively. The LLBL/cusp observed by Cluster 1 and Cluster 4 is in a fast transition between different states and is populated by different types of plasma injection, presumably coming from multiple reconnection sites. During a period of extremely northward IMF, signatures of pulsed dual reconnection inside the LLBL/cusp are observed by Cluster 3, suggesting that at least part of the LLBL/cusp is on closed field lines. However, analysis of the ion data implies that the boundary layer is formed in the dawn sector of the magnetosphere and does not slowly convect from the dayside as has been suggested previously. A statistical study of the location of the LLBL/cusp equatorward boundary during the ICME events on 28 - 29 October 2003 and 7 - 10 November 2004 is performed. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 22 July 2007
In the near-Earth environment, strong bulk plasma accelerations are frequently taken to be the diagnostic of the occurrence of magnetic reconnection. In this letter, we report new and unambiguous spacecraft observations and corresponding magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulation of strong bulk plasma acceleration in the terrestrial magnetosheath during low Alfvén Mach number solar wind conditions, which is demonstrably not associated with magnetic reconnection. We illustrate this effect with Cluster spacecraft data that show plasma accelerations up to speeds of 1040 km/s, while the ambient solar wind speed is only 650 km/s (i.e., in excess by 60%). Based on a comparison with global MHD simulations of the magnetosphere, we show that the acceleration results from enhanced magnetic forces exerted on the plasma by "stiff" magnetic flux tubes in a low-Beta magnetosheath that result from the low Alfvén Mach number solar wind. The MHD simulations demonstrate that the acceleration is asymmetric, as well as the magnetopause shape, and is the result of both magnetic pressure gradient and tension forces, showing that this effect is not a simple analogy to a "slingshot effect" for which magnetic tension would dominate. Like magnetic reconnection, this mechanism is capable of producing strong plasma acceleration in the near-Earth's environment. The low Alfvén Mach number solar wind condition leading to this mechanism is often characteristic of coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
Published: 19 July 2007
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