Publication archive

Publication archive

We present in situ measurements in a space plasma showing that thin current sheets the size of an ion inertial length exist and are abundant in strong and intermittent plasma turbulence. Many of these current sheets exhibit the microphysical signatures of reconnection. The spatial scale where intermittency occurs corresponds to the observed structures. The reconnecting current sheets represent a type of dissipation mechanism, with observed dissipation rates comparable to or even dominating over collisionless damping rates of waves at ion inertial length scales (x100), and can have far reaching implications for small-scale dissipation in all turbulent plasmas.
Published: 14 July 2007
Kinetic simulations of magnetic reconnection indicate that the electron diffusion region (EDR) can elongate into a highly stretched current layer with a width on the electron scale and a length that exceeds tens of ion inertial lengths. The resulting structure has no fluid analogue and consists of two regions in the exhaust direction. The inner region is characterized by the locale where electrons reach a peak outflow speed near the electron Alfvén velocity. Ions also approach ~80% of their peak velocity in this inner region but remain sub-Alfvénic. There exists a large electrostatic potential that can temporarily trap electrons within this inner region. The electron frozen-in condition is violated over a wider outer region characterized by highly collimated electron jets that are gradually decelerated and thermalized. Reconnection proceeds continuously but the rate is modulated in time as the EDR elongates into an extended layer. The elongation of the EDR is controlled by the competition between the outward convection of magnetic flux and the non-ideal term involving the divergence of the electron pressure tensor. The occasional balance between these two terms leads to periods of quasi-steady reconnection. However, over longer time scales, a natural feature of the reconnection process appears to be frequent formation of plasmoids due to the instability of the elongated EDR which leads to larger variations in the reconnection rate. These new findings provide testable predictions and indicate the need to reconsider the diagnostics for identification of the diffusion region and interpretation of observational data.
Published: 12 July 2007
ULF waves in the terrestrial foreshock observed simultaneously by the four Cluster satellites were analyzed to identify the plasma wave modes and to study the effect of plasma beta on the intrinsic wave properties. The wave properties in the spacecraft and solar wind frames, such as the wave frequency, total wave number, phase speed, and wave polarization, are experimentally derived using the minimum variance analysis (MVA) for the case study and the phase differencing (MVA-free) technique for the statistical study. Both studies indicate that the waves with a 30 s period propagate in the upstream direction at a finite angle with respect to the background magnetic field in the plasma rest frame but are then convected downstream in the spacecraft frame. It is shown that these waves propagate in the fast magnetosonic mode. A similar analysis of the 3 s period waves shows them to be propagating in the upstream direction in the Alfvén/ion cyclotron mode. The measured wave properties in the plasma rest frame are in good agreement with theoretical kinetic dispersion relation with a different plasma beta, which has rather significant deviation from fluid model especially for the high plasma beta. In conclusion it is found that the experimentally derived foreshock ULF wave properties are basically in good agreement with previous results but the effect of plasma beta is indispensable to choose the correct wave mode branch especially for the high plasma beta condition.
Published: 08 July 2007
Energetic electron and ion (electrons: 30 keV to 500 keV, protons: 30 keV to 1.5 MeV) flux variations associated with ultralow frequency (ULF) waves in the dayside magnetosphere were observed during the CLUSTER's perigee pass near 0900 MLT on Oct. 31, 2003. The ULF modulation terminated where higher frequency fluctuations appeared, as the CLUSTER spacecraft entered the plasmasphere boundary layer (PBL) where the plasma ion density was elevated. In the region from L ~ 5.0 to 10, the periods of the ion flux modulation and the electron flux modulation are same but out-of-phase. The observed magnetic ULF pulsations are dominated by the toroidal mode, along with a relatively weaker poloidal wave. A 90° phase shift between the radial electric field and the azimuthal magnetic field indicates that dominating toroidal standing waves observed at the southern hemisphere are a fundamental harmonic. This study shows that the modulation of the electron flux is dominated by the toroidal mode in the region of L > 7.5. The observations made in this analysis suggest the excitation of the energetic electron drift resonance at around 127 keV.
Published: 30 June 2007
As part of an investigation of the magnetic effects of external currents in the magnetosphere, we have compared two years of perigee Cluster data to the Tsyganenko 2001 (T01) field model. Cluster data are not included in the T01 database and therefore can be used to independently verify the model. The model performs very well in a global sense; nevertheless, absolute residuals between the data and the model can reach ~20 nT near perigee. These deviations take two forms: a sharp, bipolar signature and well-defined trends over a larger spatial region. The bipolar signatures in the residuals are moderately stable, repeating on the phase period of the Cluster orbit. The bipolar nature of the signatures reflects variations in the Cluster data, therefore indicating that the spacecraft may be observing a field-aligned current. Although the size of the magnetic field perturbation in this region is not well determined by T01, the location of the observed field-aligned current system is accurately predicted. The bipolar signatures are observed in close proximity to the edge of the ring current, estimated from Cluster energetic electron spectrograms, indicating that they are associated with region 2 field-aligned currents. Longer-duration trends in the residuals indicate a slight difference between the model predictions and the Cluster data for various locations and seasons. For example, throughout most of 2003 and the first half of 2004, there is a residual in the total magnetic field for an hour centered on perigee, of ~20 nT.
Published: 30 June 2007
The paper tries to sort out the specific signatures of the Near Earth Neutral Line (NENL) and the Current Disruption (CD) models, and looks for these signatures in Cluster data from two events. For both events transient magnetic signatures are observed, together with fast ion flows. In the simplest form of NENL scenario, with a large-scale two-dimensional reconnection site, quasi-invariance along Y is expected. Thus the magnetic signatures in the S/C frame are interpreted as relative motions, along the X or Z direction, of a quasi-steady X-line, with respect to the S/C. In the simplest form of CD scenario an azimuthal modulation is expected. Hence the signatures in the S/C frame are interpreted as signatures of azimuthally (along Y) moving current system associated with low frequency fluctuations of Jy and the corresponding field-aligned currents (Jx). Event 1 covers a pseudo-breakup, developing only at high latitudes. First, a thin (H~2000 km~2 rhoi, with rhoi the ion gyroradius) Current Sheet (CS) is found to be quiet. A slightly thinner CS (H~1000-2000 km~1-2 rhoi), crossed about 30 min later, is found to be active, with fast earthward ion flow bursts (300-600 km/s) and simultaneous large amplitude fluctuations (deltaB/B~1). In the quiet CS the current density Jy is carried by ions. Conversely, in the active CS ions are moving eastward; the westward current is carried by electrons that move eastward, faster than ions. Similarly, the velocity of earthward flows (300-600 km/s), observed during the active period, maximizes near or at the CS center. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 30 June 2007
Solitary nonlinear (deltaB/B >> 1) electromagnetic pulses have been detected in Earth's geomagnetic tail accompanying plasmas flowing at super-Alfvénic speeds. The pulses in the current sheet had durations of ~5 s, were left-hand circularly polarized, and had phase speeds of approximately the Alfvén speed in the plasma frame. These pulses were associated with a field-aligned current J|| and observed in low density (~0.3 cm-3), high temperature (Te~Ti~3x107 K), and beta~10 plasma that included electron and ion beams streaming along B. The wave activity was enhanced from below the ion cyclotron frequency to electron cyclotron and upper hybrid frequencies. The detailed properties suggest the pulses are nonlinearly steepened ion cyclotron or Alfvén waves.
Published: 28 June 2007
Detection of a separator line that connects magnetic nulls and the determination of the dynamics and plasma environment of such a structure can improve our understanding of the three-dimensional (3D) magnetic reconnection process. However, this type of field and particle configuration has not been directly observed in space plasmas. Here we report the identification of a pair of nulls, the null-null line that connects them, and associated fans and spines in the magnetotail of the Earth using data from the four Cluster spacecraft. With di and de designating the ion and electron inertial lengths, respectively, the separation between the nulls is found to be ~0.7+-0.3di and an associated oscillation is identified as a lower-hybrid wave with wavelength ~de. This in situ evidence of the full 3D reconnection geometry and associated dynamics provides an important step towards establishing an observational framework of 3D reconnection.
Published: 25 June 2007
A key feature of collisionless magnetic reconnection is the formation of Hall magnetic and electric field structure in the vicinity of the diffusion region. Here we present multi-point Cluster observations of a reconnection event in the near-Earth magnetotail where the diffusion region was nested by the Cluster spacecraft; we compare observations made simultaneously by different spacecraft on opposite sides of the magnetotail current sheet. This allows the spatial structure of both the electric and magnetic field to be probed. It is found that, close to the diffusion region, the magnetic field displays a symmetric quadrupole structure. The Hall electric field is symmetric, observed to be inwardly directed on both sides of the current sheet. It is large (~40 mV m-1) on the earthward side of the diffusion region, but substantially weaker on the tailward side, suggesting a reduced reconnection rate reflected by a similar reduction in Ey. A small-scale magnetic flux rope was observed in conjunction with these observations. This flux rope, observed very close to the reconnection site and entrained in the plasma flow, may correspond to what have been termed secondary islands in computer simulations. The core magnetic field inside the flux rope is enhanced by a factor of 3, even though the lobe guide field is negligible. Observations of the electric field inside the magnetic island show extremely strong (~100 mV m-1) fields which may play a significant role in the particle dynamics during reconnection.
Published: 21 June 2007
An analysis technique, termed MRA (magnetic rotation analysis), has been designed to probe three-dimensional magnetic field topology. It is based on estimating the gradient tensor of four-point measurements of the magnetic field which have been taken by the Cluster mission. The method first constructs the symmetrical magnetic rotation tensor and in general terms deduces the rotation rate of magnetic field along one arbitrary direction. In particular, the maximum, medium, and minimum magnetic rotation rates along corresponding characteristic directions of a magnetic structure can be obtained. The value of the curvature of a magnetic field line, for example, is given by the magnetic rotation rate along the magnetic unit vector and its corresponding radius of curvature is readily obtained. MRA has been applied here to analyze the geometrical structure of two distinct magnetospheric structures, i.e., the tail current sheet and the tail flux rope. The normal of the current sheet is the direction at which the magnetic field has the largest rotation rate. The half thickness of the one-dimensional neutral sheet can also be determined from the reciprocal of the maximum magnetic rotation rate. The advantage of the MRA method is that not only it can determine the orientation but also the internal geometrical configuration and spatial scale of the magnetic structures. A key feature of the MRA method is that it provides the detailed picture of the magnetic rotation point by point through any crossing of the current sheet. As a result, the thickness of the neutral sheet (NS) can be explicitly demonstrated to vary with time, as indicated in one case study, where the NS becomes thicker after the onset of a substorm. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 13 June 2007
Nonlinear isolated electrostatic solitary waves (ESWs) are observed routinely at many of Earth's major boundaries by the Wideband Data (WBD) plasma wave receivers that are mounted on the four Cluster satellites. The current study discusses two aspects of ESWs: their characteristics in the magnetosheath, and their propagation in the magnetosheath and in the auroral acceleration (upward current) region. The characteristics (amplitude and time duration) of ESWs detected in the magnetosheath are presented for one case in which special mutual impedance tests were conducted allowing for the determination of the density and temperature of the hot and cold electrons. These electron parameters, together with those from the ion experiment, were used as inputs to an electron acoustic soliton model as a consideration for the generation of the observed ESWs. The results from this model showed that negative potential ESWs of a few Debye lengths (10-50 m) could be generated in this plasma. Other models of ESW generation are discussed, including beam instabilities and spontaneous generation out of turbulence. The results of two types of ESW propagation (in situ and remote sensing) studies are also presented. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 03 June 2007
We examine the near-Earth Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejection (ICME) apparently related to the intense Solar Energetic Particle (SEP) event of 20 January 2005. Our purpose is to contribute to the understanding of the macroscopic structure, evolution and dynamics of the solar corona and heliosphere. Using Cluster, ACE and Wind data in the solar wind, and Geotail data in the magnetosheath, we perform a multi-spacecraft analysis of the ICME-driven shock, post-shock magnetic discontinuities and ejecta. Traversals by the well-separated near-Earth spacecraft provide a coherent picture of the ICME geometry. Following the shock, the ICME sequence starts with a hot pileup, i.e., a sheath, followed by a fast ejecta characterised by a non-compressive density enhancement (NCDE), which is caused essentially by an enrichment in helium. The plasma and magnetic observations of the ejecta are consistent with the outskirts of a structure in strong expansion, consisting of nested magnetic loops still connected to the Sun. Within the leading edge of the ejecta, we establish the presence of a tilted current sheet substructure. An analysis of the observations suggests that the tilted current sheet is draped within the overlying cloud canopy, ahead of a magnetic cloud-like structure. The flux rope interpretation of this structure near L1, confirmed by observations of the corresponding magnetic cloud, provided by Ulysses at 5.3 AU and away from the Sun-Earth line, indicates that the bulk of the cloud is in the northwest sector as seen from the Earth, with its axis nearly perpendicular to the ecliptic. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 30 May 2007
The processes of nonadiabatic ion acceleration occurring in the vicinity of magnetic neutral lines produce highly accelerated (up to 2500 km/s) field-aligned ion beams (beamlets) with transient appearance streaming earthward in the plasma sheet boundary layer (PSBL) of the Earth's magnetotail. Previous studies of these phenomena based on single spacecraft (s/c) missions supported the view that beamlets are temporal transients, since the typical time of a beamlet observation at a given s/c very rarely exceeds ~1-2 min. Now multipoint Cluster observations have led to a new understanding of these phenomena with a spatial rather than a temporal structure. On the basis of 3-year Cluster measurements made in the PSBL, we present statistical evaluation of the beamlet duration (at least 5-15 min) and confirm well-manifested localization of the beamlet along Z and in some cases along Y directions, i.e., approximately across the lobe magnetic field. Earlier results reporting shorter beamlet observations could be understood by invoking not only PSBL flapping motions but also of an additional effect revealed by Cluster: earthward propagation of kink-like perturbations along the beamlet filaments. Phase velocity of these perturbations is of the order of the local Alfven velocity (V ~ 600-1400 km/s) and related fast flappings of localized beamlet structures in the Y-Z direction significantly decreasing the time of their observation at a given spacecraft. Multipoint observations of beamlets revealed that they represent long-living (~5-15 min) plasma filaments elongated along the lobe magnetic field (~60-100RE) and strongly localized in direction perpendicular to the PSBL-lobe boundary (~0.2-0.7RE). In some cases, it was also possible to estimate the width of beamlet in dawn-dusk direction which was of the order of fractions of RE.
Published: 25 May 2007
We report on magnetically conjugate Cluster and the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite observations of subauroral ion drifts (SAID) during moderate geomagnetic activity levels on 8 April 2004. To our knowledge, the field-aligned separation of DMSP and Cluster (~28,000 km) is the largest separation ever analyzed with respect to the SAID phenomenon. Nonetheless, we show coherent, subauroral magnetosphere-ionosphere (MI) coupling along an entire field line in the post-dusk sector. The four Cluster satellites crossed SAID electric field channels with meridional magnitude EM of 25 mV/m in situ and latitudinal extent DeltaLambda ~ 0.5° in the southern and northern hemispheres near 07:00 and 07:30 UT, respectively. Cluster was near perigee (R ~ 4 RE) and within 5° (15°) of the magnetic equator for the southern (northern) crossing. The SAID were located near the plasmapause-within the ring current-plasmasphere overlap region. Downward field-aligned current signatures were observed across both SAID crossings. The most magnetically and temporally conjugate SAID field from DMSP F16A at 07:12 UT was practically identical in latitudinal size to that mapped from Cluster. Since the DMSP ion drift meter saturated at 3000 m/s (or ~114 mV/m) and the electrostatically mapped value for EM from Cluster exceeded 300 mV/m, a magnitude comparison of EM was not possible. Although the conjugate measurements show similar large-scale SAID features, the differences in substructure highlight the physical and chemical diversity of the conjugate regions.
Published: 25 May 2007
The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI) on the boundary of a flow channel in the Earth's plasma sheet is investigated using Cluster and Double Star TC1 data. It is shown that when Cluster moves into the flow channel the magnetometer measures strong oscillations of the magnetic field, that increase as the spacecraft move further into the flow channel. These waves are identified as Kelvin Helmholtz waves. DoubleStar TC1, closer to the Earth, also observes these waves when entering the flow channel but at larger amplitude and with only little flow. The increase in wave amplitude agrees with the KHI wave growth. It is argued that the development of the KHI can play a major rôle in flow braking in the magnetotail, which is an important aspect of magnetotail dynamics. The large amount of kinetic energy released by a reconnection event or bursty bulk flow gets converted to other kinds of energy such that in the near Earth region the flow is stopped.
Published: 20 May 2007
We examine Cluster observations of a reconnection event at xGSM=-15.7 RE in the magnetotail on 11 October 2001, when Cluster recorded the current sheet for an extended period including the entire duration of the reconnection event. The onset of reconnection is associated with a sudden orientation change of the ambient magnetic field, which is also observed simultaneously by Goes-8 at geostationary orbit. Current sheet oscillations are observed both before reconnection and during it. The speed of the flapping motions is found to increase when the current sheet undergoes the transition from quiet to active state, as suggested by an earlier statistical result and now confirmed within one single event. Within the diffusion region both the tailward and earthward parts of the quadrupolar magnetic Hall structure are recorded as an x-line passes Cluster. We report the first observations of the Hall structure conforming to the kinks in the current sheet. This results in relatively strong fluctuations in Bz, which are shown to be the Hall signature tilted in the yz plane with the current sheet.
Published: 09 May 2007
Oscillating magnetic field lines are frequently observed by spacecraft in the terrestrial and other planetary magnetospheres. The CLUSTER mission is a very suitable tool to further study these Alfvén waves as the four CLUSTER spacecraft provide for an opportunity to separate spatial and temporal structures in the terrestrial magnetosphere. Using a large scaled configuration formed by the four spacecraft we are able to detect a poloidal Ultra-Low-Frequency (ULF) pulsation of the magnetic and electric field in order to analyze its temporal and spatial structures. For this purpose the measurements are transformed into a specific field line related coordinate system to investigate their specific amplitude pattern depending on the path of the CLUSTER spacecraft across oscillating field lines. These measurements are then compared with modeled spacecraft observations across a localized poloidal wave resonator in the dayside plasmasphere. A detailed investigation of theoretically expected poloidal eigenfrequencies allows us to specify the observed 16 mHz pulsation as a third harmonic oscillation. Based on this we perform a case study providing a clear identification of wave properties such as an spatial scale structure of about 0.67 RE, the azimuthal wave number m~30, temporal evolution, and energy transport in the detected ULF pulsations.
Published: 09 May 2007
A close conjunction of several satellites (LANL, GOES, Polar, Geotail, and Cluster) distributed from the geostationary altitude to about 16 RE downstream in the tail occurred during substorm activity as indicated by global auroral imaging and ground-based magnetometer data. This constellation of satellites resembles what is planned for the THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscopic Interactions during Substorms) mission to resolve the substorm controversy on the location of the substorm expansion onset region. In this article, we show in detail the dipolarization and dynamic changes seen by these satellites associated with two onsets of substorm intensification activity. In particular, we find that dipolarization at ~16 RE downstream in the tail can occur with dawnward electric field and without plasma flow, just like some near-Earth dipolarization events reported previously. The spreading of substorm disturbances in the tail coupled with complementary ground observations indicates that the observed time sequence on the onsets of substorm disturbances favors initiation in the near-Earth region for this THEMIS-like conjunction.
Published: 09 May 2007
Above the polar cap, at about 5-9 Earth radii (RE) altitude, the PEACE experiment onboard CLUSTER detected, for the first time, electron beams outflowing from the ionosphere with large and variable energy fluxes, well collimated along the magnetic field lines. All these events occurred during periods of northward or weak interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).
These outflowing beams were generally detected below 100 eV and typically between 40 and 70 eV, just above the photoelectron level. Their energy gain can be explained by the presence of a field-aligned potential drop below the spacecraft, as in the auroral zone. The careful analysis of the beams distribution function indicates that they were not only accelerated but also heated. The parallel heating is estimated to about 2 to 20 eV and it globally tends to increase with the acceleration energy. Moreover, WHISPER observed broadband electrostatic emissions around a few kHz correlated with the outflowing electron beams, which suggests beam-plasma interactions capable of triggering plasma instabilities.
In presence of simultaneous very weak ion fluxes, the outflowing electron beams are the main carriers of downward field-aligned currents estimated to about 10 nA/m². These electron beams are actually not isolated but surrounded by wider structures of ion outflows. All along its polar cap crossings, Cluster observed successive electron and ion outflows. This implies that the polar ionosphere represents a significant source of cold plasma for the magnetosphere during northward or weak IMF conditions. The successive ion and electron outflows finally result in a filamented current system of opposite polarities which connects the polar ionosphere to distant regions of the magnetosphere.
Published: 09 May 2007
24-Feb-2020 21:32 UT

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