Publication archive

Publication archive

A key prediction of turbulence theories is frame-invariance, and in magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence, axisymmetry of fluctuations with respect to the background magnetic field. Paradoxically the power in fluctuations in the turbulent solar wind are observed to be ordered with respect to the bulk macroscopic flow as well as the background magnetic field. Here, nonaxisymmetry across the inertial and dissipation ranges is quantified using in situ observations from Cluster. The observed inertial range nonaxisymmetry is reproduced by a "fly through" sampling of a direct numerical simulation of MHD turbulence. Furthermore, fly through sampling of a linear superposition of transverse waves with axisymmetric fluctuations generates the trend in nonaxisymmetry with power spectral exponent. The observed nonaxisymmetric anisotropy may thus simply arise as a sampling effect related to Taylor's hypothesis and is not related to the plasma dynamics itself.
Published: 24 August 2011

The propagation of reconnection signatures and their associated energy are examined using kinetic particle-in-cell simulations and Cluster satellite observations. It is found that the quadrupolar out-of-plane magnetic field near the separatrices is associated with a kinetic Alfvén wave. For magnetotail parameters, the parallel propagation of this wave is super-Alfvénic (V||<~1500-5500 km/s) and generates substantial Poynting flux (S~10-5-10-4 W/m2) consistent with Cluster observations of magnetic reconnection. This Poynting flux substantially exceeds that due to frozen-in ion bulk outflows and is sufficient to generate white light aurora in Earth's ionosphere.

Published: 02 July 2011
This review is intended to help prepare a new stage of wave studies in the context of magnetic reconnection. Various results that have accumulated would not let the two-dimensional, steady and laminar magnetic reconnection to remain as the standard model. Emphasis on three-dimensional, temporally varying, and turbulent effects is growing and this fact tells that the effects of waves in various frequency ranges deserve further attention in the context of magnetic reconnection. In this review, by setting a perspective, selected recent topics are reviewed and the ways in which these can be viewed as the stepping stones towards a new research horizon of magnetic reconnection are discussed.
Published: 28 July 2011
The extent of where magnetic reconnection (MR), the dominant process responsible for energy and plasma transport into the magnetosphere, operates across Earth's dayside magnetopause has previously been only indirectly shown by observations. We report the first direct evidence of X-line structure resulting from the operation of MR at each of two widely separated locations along the tilted, subsolar line of maximum current on Earth's magnetopause, confirming the operation of MR at two or more sites across the extended region where MR is expected to occur. The evidence results from in-situ observations of the associated ion and electron plasma distributions, present within each magnetic X-line structure, taken by two spacecraft passing through the active MR regions simultaneously.
Published: 07 July 2011
We present Cluster multisatellite observations of accelerated electrons in the near-Earth magnetotail associated with substorms. We found that the hardest electron energy spectra appear in the earliest stage of substorm expansion in the near-Earth tail region and that they gradually become softer during the events. Enhancement of the high-energy electron flux occurs generally associated with the bulk acceleration of ions (fast flow) and electrons. It is also shown that the high-energy electrons sometimes show preferential perpendicular acceleration associated with the temporal enhancement of the normal component of the magnetic field, and then the anisotropic distribution quickly becomes isotropic. During the dipolarization interval, in which no convection signature is observed, perpendicular flux drops to less than the initial value, and the parallel flux is more than the perpendicular flux. The results suggest that the electron acceleration mechanism is mostly consistent with adiabatic betatron acceleration, while Fermi acceleration is not clear in the high-energy part. The effect of the pitch angle scattering is also important. The dispersive signature of the high-energy electron flux indicates fast dawnward drift loss, namely, the three-dimensional effect of the limited plasma acceleration region.
Published: 22 May 2010
Electric currents permeate space plasmas and often have a significant component along the magnetic field to form magnetic flux ropes. A larger spatial perspective of these structures than from the direct observation along the satellite path is crucial in visualizing their role in plasma dynamics. For magnetic flux ropes that are approximately two-dimensional equilibrium structures on a certain plane, Grad-Shafranov reconstruction technique, developed by Bengt Sonnerup and his colleagues (see Sonnerup et al. in J. Geophys. Res. 111:A09204, 2006), can be used to reveal two-dimensional maps of associated plasma and field parameters. This review gives a brief account of the technique and its application to magnetic flux ropes near the Earth's magnetopause, in the solar wind, and in the magnetotail. From this brief survey, the ranges of the total field-aligned current and the total magnetic flux content for these magnetic flux ropes are assessed. The total field-aligned current is found to range from ~0.14 to ~9.7×104 MA, a range of nearly six orders of magnitude. The total magnetic flux content is found to range from ~0.25 to ~2.3×106 MWb, a range of nearly seven orders of magnitude. To the best of our knowledge, this review reports the largest range of both the total field-aligned current and the total magnetic flux content for magnetic flux ropes in space plasmas.
Published: 23 April 2011
We report in situ observations by the Cluster spacecraft of wave-particle interactions in a magnetic flux pileup region created by a magnetic reconnection outflow jet in Earth's magnetotail. Two distinct regions of wave activity are identified: lower-hybrid drift waves at the front edge and whistler-mode waves inside the pileup region. The whistler-mode waves are locally generated by the electron temperature anisotropy, and provide evidence for ongoing betatron energization caused by magnetic flux pileup. The whistler-mode waves cause fast pitch-angle scattering of electrons and isotropization of the electron distribution, thus making the flow braking process nonadiabatic. The waves strongly affect the electron dynamics and thus play an important role in the energy conversion chain during plasma jet braking.
Published: 19 April 2011
We present Cluster observations of a series of dipolarization fronts (DF 1 to 6) at the central current sheet in Earth's magnetotail. The velocities of fast earthward flow following behind each DF 1-3 are comparable to the Alfvén velocity, indicating that the flow bursts might have been generated by bursty reconnection that occurred tailward of the spacecraft. Based on multispacecraft timing analysis, DF normals are found to propagate mainly earthward at 160-335 km/s with a thickness of 900-1500 km, which corresponds to the ion inertial length or gyroradius scale. Each DF is followed by significant fluctuations in the x and y components of the magnetic field whose peaks are found 1-2 min after the DF passage. These (Bx, By) fluctuations propagate dawnward (mainly) and earthward. Strongly enhanced field-aligned beams are observed coincidently with (Bx, By) fluctuations, while an enhancement of cross-tail currents is associated with the DFs. From the observed pressure imbalance and flux tube entropy changes between the two regions separated by the DF, we speculate that interchange instability destabilizes the DFs and causes the deformation of the midtail magnetic topology. This process generates significant field-aligned currents and might power the auroral brightening in the ionosphere. However, this event is associated with neither the main substorm auroral breakup nor the poleward expansion, which might indicate that the observed multiple DFs have been dissipated before they reach the inner plasma sheet boundary.
Published: 14 April 2011
We have analyzed Cluster magnetic field and plasma data during high-altitude cusp crossing and compared them with high-resolution MHD simulations. Cluster encountered a diamagnetic cavity (DMC) during northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions, and as the IMF rotated southward, the spacecraft reencountered the cavity more at the sunward side of the cusp because the reconnection site had changed location. We found evidence of magnetic reconnection both during northward and southward IMF conditions. The Cluster separation was ~5000 km, enabling for the first time measurements both inside the DMC and surrounding boundaries that allowed us to construct the structure of the DMC and put the observations of ion pitch angle distributions in context of local reconnection topology and gradients of the boundaries. The cavity is characterized by strong magnetic field fluctuations and high-energy particles. At the magnetosheath boundary the high-energy particle fluxes reduced by several orders of magnitude. Throughout the magnetosheath, the high-energy proton fluxes remained low except during brief intervals when sc4 and sc1 dropped back into the cavity due to changes in solar wind dynamic pressure. However, the high-energy O+ fluxes did not drop as much in the magnetosheath and were mostly at 60°-120° pitch angles, indicative of a trapped population in the DMC which is observed in the magnetosheath due to a large gyroradius. Significant fluxes of protons and ionized oxygen were also observed escaping from the diamagnetic cavity antiparallel to the magnetic field in a time scale more consistent with the local DMC source than with a reflected bow shock source.
Published: 01 April 2011
In 2007 during the declining phase of the solar cycle the energetic upstream ion events occurred mainly after a corotating interaction region passed the Earth's magnetosphere. We study the relation between these upstream events observed from about 70 to 1750 RE away from the Earth and observations in the vicinity of the terrestrial bow shock (up to 30 RE). For this purpose, simultaneous measurements of energetic ions from STEREO A and STEREO B (far upstream region) and from Cluster and Geotail (near the bow shock) are used. In all cases the energetic ions far upstream are associated with the upstream ion events near the bow shock. The upstream events are observed simultaneously mainly when the magnetic field is pointing along the line joining those satellites in the far upstream region with those near the terrestrial bow shock. The upstream events near the bow shock often coincide with sunward directed electron bursts, increased AE index (>200 nT), nonexponential proton spectra, and most important the presence of O+ ions, all of which imply at least partly a magnetospheric origin. In ~57% of cases the upstream ion events near the bow shock are associated with electron bursts and/or with the presence of O+, and ~40% of the latter events are associated with electron bursts at STEREO A. Although we present strong evidence that the events are partially of magnetospheric origin, we do not exclude the presence of the ions accelerated at the bow shock.
Published: 11 February 2011
We examine Cluster observations of a so-called magnetosphere crater FTE, employing data from five instruments (FGM, CIS, EDI, EFW, and WHISPER), some at the highest resolution. The aim of doing this is to deepen our understanding of the reconnection nature of these events by applying recent advances in the theory of collisionless reconnection and in detailed observational work. Our data support the hypothesis of a stratified structure with regions which we show to be spatial structures. We support the bulge-like topology of the core region (R3) made up of plasma jetting transverse to reconnected field lines. We document encounters with a magnetic separatrix as a thin layer embedded in the region (R2) just outside the bulge, where the speed of the protons flowing approximately parallel to the field maximizes: (1) short (fraction of a sec) bursts of enhanced electric field strengths (up to <30 mV/m) and (2) electrons flowing against the field toward the X line at approximately the same time as the bursts of intense electric fields. R2 also contains a density decrease concomitant with an enhanced magnetic field strength. At its interface with the core region, R3, electric field activity ceases abruptly. The accelerated plasma flow profile has a catenary shape consisting of beams parallel to the field in R2 close to the R2/R3 boundary and slower jets moving across the magnetic field within the bulge region. We detail commonalities our observations of crater FTEs have with reconnection structures in other scenarios. We suggest that in view of these properties and their frequency of occurrence, crater FTEs are ideal places to study processes at the separatrices, key regions in magnetic reconnection. This is a good preparation for the MMS mission.
Published: 08 February 2011
Aurora, commonly seen in the polar sky, is a ubiquitous phenomenon occurring on Earth and other solar system planets. The colorful emissions are caused by high-energy beams of electrons hitting the upper atmosphere, after being accelerated by quasi-static electric fields at altitudes around one Earth radius, or by wave electric fields. Although the aurora was studied by many past satellite missions, Cluster is first to explore the acceleration region with multi-probes, enabling open issues on its nature to be resolved. Here, Cluster data from the upper and lower parts of this region are used to determine the altitude distribution of the acceleration potential above the Aurora Borealis, and to address its stability in space and time. The derived acceleration potential consists of two broad Ushaped potentials in the upper parts of the acceleration region, and a narrower S-shaped potential structure located below, and is stable on a five minute time scale. The results demonstrate that the spatial scale of the electric field is much smaller than the current width in the lower parts, but almost equal in the upper parts of the acceleration region Revealing of these features was possible only by combining data from the two spacecraft.
Published: 01 February 2011
Magnetic reconnection in magnetized plasmas represents a change in magnetic field topology and is associated with a concomitant energization of charged particles that results from a conversion of magnetic energy into particle energy. In Earths magnetosphere this process is associated with the entry of the solar wind into the magnetosphere and with the initiation of auroral substorms. Using data from the THEMIS mission, together with global and test particle simulations, we demonstrate that electrons are energized in two distinct regions: a low-energy population (less than or equal to a few kiloelectronvolts) that arises in a diffusion region where particles are demagnetized and the magnetic topology changes, and a high-energy component (approaching 100 keV) that results from betatron acceleration within dipolarization fronts that sweep towards the inner magnetosphere far from the diffusion region. Thus, the observed particle energization is associated with both magnetic reconnection and with betatron acceleration associated with macroscopic flows.
Published: 30 January 2011
In this investigation we introduce and discuss quantitative parameters of a thin current sheet embedded in the background plasma sheet. We use Cluster statistics and empirical models, as well as self-consistent simulations, to understand the formation and development of embedded current sheets, in particular in the course of substorms. Data and theory show that the embedded sheet thickness is of the order of a proton larmor radius, a constraint equivalent to magnetic flux conservation. The embedded sheet can be essentially described by two dimensionless parameters B0/Bext and F0/Fext. B0 is the magnetic field at the embedded sheet boundary, Bext is the field at the boundary of the background plasma sheet, and F0 and Fext are magnetic flux values. During the growth phase current density in embedded sheet and B0 increase, while thickness decreases. Sheets with the most intense currents (large B0) are observed after onset. The self-consistent anisotropic sheet model, including both electron and proton currents and combined with the Harris-type background shows that when the proton-scale embedded sheet becomes sufficiently thin, an electron-scale current sheet can appear inside it due to enhanced electron curvature drift.
Published: 28 January 2011
Using three-dimensional MHD simulations of magnetic reconnection in the magnetotail, we investigate the fate of earthward bursty bulk flows (BBFs). The flow bursts are identified as entropy-depleted magnetic flux tubes ("bubbles") generated by the severance of a plasmoid via magnetic reconnection. The onset of fast reconnection coincides closely with a drastic entropy reduction at the onset of lobe reconnection. The fact that, in the simulation, the Alfvén speed does not change significantly at this time suggests that the destabilization of ballooning/interchange modes is important in driving faster reconnection as well as in providing cross-tail structure. In the initial phase, the BBFs are associated with earthward propagating dipolarization fronts. When the flow is stopped nearer to Earth, the region of dipolarization expands both azimuthally and tailward. Tailward flows are found to be associated with a rebound of the earthward flow and with reversed vortices on the outside of the flow. Earthward and tailward flows are also associated with expansion and contraction of the near plasma sheet. All of these features are consistent with recent satellite observations by Cluster and the Time History of Events and their Macroscopic Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission.
Published: 22 January 2011
The modulations of the outer ring current O+ ion fluxes by ULF Pc5 waves are investigated by multisatellite observations during storm times. The O+ ions have energies up to tens of keV. We concentrate on the process in terms of drift-bounce resonance of O+ ions with ULF standing waves to understand whether the ring current O+ ions could be accelerated/decelerated by ULF waves. Two case studies are performed, in which the Cluster satellites travel the outer ring current region in the morning sector with radial distances of about 5.5 RE. Distinct O+ ion flux oscillations are observed associated with fundamental mode ULF standing waves. On 25 October 2002, both satellites SC1 and SC4 observe strong poloidal and toroidal standing waves at approximately the same region one by one with a time lag of 45 min. The O+ ion flux oscillations at around 20 keV are dominantly coherent with the poloidal standing wave at 3.4 mHz with cross phases of near 90° with respect to the magnetic field waves. The O+ phase space density spectra at 10 to 25 keV, measured by both satellites, deviate significantly from the typical power law distribution. We suggest that the O+ ions at 10 to 25 keV are accelerated due to drift-bounce resonance with the poloidal standing wave. On 4 November 2002, satellite SC1 observes considerable poloidal and toroidal standing waves. The O+ ion flux oscillation at around 7 keV is well correlated with both of the two wave modes at 3.7 mHz with cross phases of about 90° with respect to the magnetic field waves. The O+ spectra at 4 to 8 keV deviates remarkably from the background power law distribution. When satellite SC4 closely encounters the same region 40 min later, the wave activities at 3.7 mHz are found to be rather weak and the O+ spectra is close to the background power law distribution. We suggest that the spectra variation of SC1 results from the deceleration of O+ ion at 4 to 8 keV via drift-bounce resonances during the strong wave activities.
Published: 11 January 2011
In June 2006 Venus Express crossed several times the outer boundary of Venus induced magnetosphere, its magnetosheath and its bow shock. During the same interval the Cluster spacecraft surveyed the dawn flank of the terrestrial magnetosphere, intersected the Earth's magnetopause and spent long time intervals in the magnetosheath. This configuration offers the opportunity to perform a joint investigation of the interface between Venus and Earth's outer plasma layers and the shocked solar wind. We discuss the kinetic structure of the magnetopause of both planets, its global characteristics and the effects on the interaction between the planetary plasma and the solar wind. A Vlasov equilibrium model is constructed for both planetary magnetopauses and provides good estimates of the magnetic field profile across the interface. The model is also in agreement with plasma data and evidence the role of planetary and solar wind ions on the spatial scale of the equilibrium magnetopause of the two planets. The main characteristics of the two magnetopauses are discussed and compared.
Published: 07 May 2010
The forward cascade of decaying whistler turbulence is studied in low beta plasma to understand essential properties of the energy spectrum at electron scales, by using a two-dimensional electromagnetic particle-in-cell (PIC) simulation. This simulation demonstrates turbulence in which the energy cascade rate is greater than the dissipation rate at the electron inertial length. The PIC simulation shows that the magnetic energy spectrum of forward-cascaded whistler turbulence at electron inertial scales is anisotropic and develops a very steep power-law spectrum which is consistent with recent solar wind observations. A comparison of the simulated spectrum with that predicted by a phenomenological turbulence scaling model suggests that the energy cascade at the electron inertial scale depends on both magnetic fluctuations and electron velocity fluctuations, as well as on the whistler dispersion relation. Thus, not only kinetic Alfvén turbulence but also whistler turbulence may explain recent solar wind observations of very steep magnetic spectra at short scales.
Published: 28 December 2010
We describe the methodology used to set up and compute spatial derivatives of the electron moments using data acquired by the Plasma Electron And Current Experiment (PEACE) from the four Cluster spacecraft. The results are used to investigate electron vorticity in the foreshock. We find that much of the measured vorticity, under nominal conditions, appears to be caused by changes in the flow direction of the return (either reflected or leakage from the magnetosheath) and strahl electron populations as they couple to changes in the magnetic field orientation. This in turn results in deflections in the total bulk velocity producing the measured vorticity.
Published: 21 December 2010
Observations of Poynting fluxes associated with onset of convection electric fields are essential for understanding of electromagnetic energy transport from the solar wind toward the magnetosphere leading to changes in the convection electric field, which is one of the most fundamental parameters in the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupled system. We present Cluster multispacecraft observations of Poynting fluxes associated with abrupt changes in large-scale electric fields during sudden commencements and southward turning of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The Cluster spacecraft detected Poynting fluxes dominated by the field-aligned upward component during the preliminary impulse of sudden commencements and in the initial period after southward turning of the IMF. The upward Poynting flux indicates existence of Alfvén waves transporting electromagnetic energy from the ionosphere toward the magnetosphere leading to magnetospheric convection changes. The waveguide model and global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulation calculating evolution of the Poynting flux following solar wind pressure enhancements also show upward Poynting fluxes propagating from the ionosphere toward the magnetosphere faster than the propagation of compressional waves. We conclude that the ionosphere acts as a channel to transmit electromagnetic energy supplied as field-aligned currents toward a wide region in the magnetosphere-ionosphere system instantaneously, leading to changes in magnetospheric convection electric fields.
Published: 04 December 2010
22-Feb-2020 11:31 UT

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