Publication archive

Publication archive

The Earth constantly loses matter, mostly in the form of H+ and O+ ions, through various outflow processes from the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Most of these ions are cold (below 1 eV in thermal energy), but can still escape and travel farther out along the magnetic field lines into the magnetospheric tail lobes. The outflow has previously been measured close to the Earth. To understand what fraction does not return but instead escapes, the measurements should be conducted at larger geocentric distances. However, at high altitudes the cold ions are normally invisible to spacecraft measurements, because the potential of a sunlit spacecraft exceeds the equivalent energy of the ions. Here we show that cold ions dominate in both flux and density in the distant magnetotail lobes, using a new measurement technique on the Cluster spacecraft. The total loss of cold hydrogen ions from the planet is inferred to be of the order of 1026 s-1, which is larger than the previously observed more energetic outflow. Quantification and insight of the loss processes of the Earth's atmosphere and ionosphere are also important for understanding the evolution of atmospheres on other celestial bodies.
Published: 01 January 2009
We demonstrate from observations that kinetic Alfvén waves may play an important role in facilitating magnetic reconnection. These waves radiate outwards from the diffusion region oblique to the magnetic field in a conelike pattern delimited by the X line separatrices with outward energy fluxes equivalent to that contained in the outstreaming ions. It is shown that the wave vectors reverse across the X and symmetry lines and have a large out of plane component. We estimate that these waves drive significant transport through the diffusion region.
Published: 08 January 2009
The Earth constantly loses matter, mostly in the form of H+ and O+ ions, through various outflow processes from the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Most of these ions are cold (below 1 eV in thermal energy), but can still escape and travel farther out along the magnetic field lines into the magnetospheric tail lobes. The outflow has previously been measured close to the Earth. To understand what fraction does not return but instead escapes, the measurements should be conducted at larger geocentric distances. However, at high altitudes the cold ions are normally invisible to spacecraft measurements, because the potential of a sunlit spacecraft exceeds the equivalent energy of the ions. Here we show that cold ions dominate in both flux and density in the distant magnetotail lobes, using a new measurement technique on the Cluster spacecraft. The total loss of cold hydrogen ions from the planet is inferred to be of the order of 1026 s-1, which is larger than the previously observed more energetic outflow. Quantification and insight of the loss processes of the Earth's atmosphere and ionosphere are also important for understanding the evolution of atmospheres on other celestial bodies.
Published: 01 January 2009
We study the acceleration of energetic electrons during magnetotail reconnection by using Cluster simultaneous measurements of three-dimensional electron distribution functions, electric and magnetic fields, and waves in a thin current sheet. We present observations of two consecutive current sheet crossings where the flux of electrons 35-127 keV peaks within an interval of tailward flows. The first crossing shows the signatures of a tailward moving flux rope. The observed magnetic field and density indicate that the flux rope was very dynamic, and a comparison with numerical simulation suggests a crossing right after coalescence of smaller flux ropes. The second crossing occurs within the ion diffusion region. The flux of electrons is largest within the flux rope where they are mainly directed perpendicular to the magnetic field. At the magnetic separatrices, the fluxes are smaller, but the energy spectra are harder and electrons are mainly field aligned. Reconnection electric fields EY ~ 7 mV/m are observed within the diffusion region, whereas in the flux rope, EY are much smaller. Waves around lower hybrid frequency do not show a clear correlation with energetic electrons. We interpret the field-aligned electrons at the separatrices as directly accelerated by the reconnection electric field in the diffusion region, whereas we interpret the perpendicular electrons as trapped within the flux rope and accelerated by a combination of betatron acceleration with nonadiabatic pitch-angle scattering. Our observations indicate that thin current sheets during dynamic reconnection are important for in situ production of energetic electrons and that simultaneous measurements of electrons and electromagnetic fields within thin sheets are crucial to understand the acceleration mechanisms.
Published: 27 December 2008
We have identified a spatially extended electron current sheet (ECS) and its adjacent magnetic island during a magnetotail reconnection event with no appreciable guide field. This finding is based on data from the four Cluster spacecraft and is enabled by detailed maps of electron distribution functions and DC electric fields within the diffusion region. The maps are developed using two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations with a mass ratio mi/me = 800. One spacecraft crossed the ECS earthward of the reconnection null and, together with the other three spacecraft, registered the following properties: (1) The ECS is colocated with a layer of bipolar electric fields normal to the ECS, pointing toward the ECS, and with a half width less than 8 electron skin depths. (2) In the inflow region up to the ECS and separatrices, electrons have a temperature anisotropy (Te parallel/Te perp. > 1), and the anisotropy increases toward the ECS. (3) Within about 1 ion skin depth (di) above and below the ECS, the electron density decreases toward the ECS by a factor of 3-4, reaching a minimum at edges of the ECS, and has a local distinct maximum at the ECS center. (4) A di-scale magnetic island is attached to the ECS, separating it from another reconnection layer. Our simulations established that the electric field normal to the ECS is due to charge imbalance and is of the ECS scale, and ions exhibit electron-scale structures in response to this electric field.
Published: 06 January 2009
The basic physics underpinning space weather is reviewed, beginning with a brief overview of the main causes of variability in the near-Earth space environment. Although many plasma phenomena contribute to space weather, one of the most important is magnetic reconnection, and recent cutting edge research in this field is reviewed. We then place this research in context by discussing a number of specific types of space weather in more detail. As society inexorably increases its dependence on space, the necessity of predicting and mitigating space weather will become ever more acute. This requires a deep understanding of the complexities inherent in the plasmas that fill space and has prompted the development of a new generation of scientific space missions at the international level.
Published: 13 December 2008
Pi2 waves are an intergral part of the substorm process and have been observed on the ground and in space. Using the special ability of Cluster to determine the propagation direction of signals measured in the magnetometer data, it is found that in the lobes of the Earth's magnetotail, for the cases in this study, the Pi2 waves are travelling tailward. The polarization of the waves in the lobes corresponds well with the polarization observed in the highest latitude ground station. The propagation velocity of the Pi2 waves in the lobes is basically Alfvénic.
Published: 09 December 2008
The results of a global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulation of a pair of magnetospheric substorms on 11 August 2002 are presented. Comparisons of data with simulation results reveal a good agreement regarding the sequence of events during substorm development. We give particular emphasis to results in the simulation of a flux rope formed during the second substorm. Unlike standard 2-D depictions of reconnection and plasmoid release during the substorm sequence, the simulation shows a highly complex structure that has considerable winding of both closed and open field lines. Additionally, the simulated flux rope does not move tailward uniformly, but rather it has asymmetric motion in which the dawn flank portion moves tailward prior to the dusk portion of the flux rope. This results in a skewed flux rope structure that runs almost parallel to the tail axis instead of perpendicular to it. The simulation compares well with both prior flux rope simulations as well as satellite observations of flux ropes. We use the global simulation to map flux tube properties to the ionosphere, which allows the complexity of the mapping of the magnetic field structure from the tail to the ionosphere to be seen in a novel manner.
Published: 05 December 2008
We use Cluster magnetic field, thermal ion, and energetic particle observations upstream of the Earth's bow shock to investigate the occurrence patterns of foreshock cavities. Such cavities are thought to form when bundles of magnetic field connect to the quasi-parallel bow shock. Shock-processed suprathermal ions can then stream along the field, back against the flow of the solar wind. These suprathermals enhance the pressure on shock-connected field lines causing them to expand into the surrounding ambient solar wind plasma. Foreshock cavities exhibit depressions in magnetic field magnitude and thermal ion density, associated with enhanced fluxes of energetic ions. We find typical cavity duration to be few minutes with interior densities and magnetic field magnitudes dropping to ~60% of those in the surrounding solar wind. Cavities are found to occur preferentially in fast, moderate magnetic field strength solar wind streams. Cavities are observed in all parts of the Cluster orbit upstream of the bow shock. When localised in a coordinate system organised by the underlying physical processes in the foreshock, there is a systematic change in foreshock cavity location with IMF cone angle. At low (high) cone angles foreshock cavities are observed outside (inside) the expected upstream boundary of the intermediate ion foreshock.
Published: 20 November 2008
We present a method, GALS (Gradient Analysis by Least Squares) for estimating the gradient of a physical field from multi-spacecraft observations. To obtain the best possible spatial resolution, the gradient is estimated in the frame of reference where structures in the field are essentially locally stationary. The estimates are refined iteratively by a least squares method. We show that GALS is not very sensitive to the spacecraft configuration and resolves structures much smaller than the characteristic size of the spacecraft distribution. Furthermore, GALS requires little user input. GALS has been tested on synthetic magnetic field data and data from the Cluster FGM instrument. GALS will also be useful for other types of data. The results indicate that GALS is robust and superior to the curlometer method for estimating the current from magnetic field measurements.
Published: 10 November 2008
Our purpose is to characterize the evolution of the magnetopause Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) wave activity with changes in thickness of the adjacent boundary layer, geomagnetic latitude and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) orientation. As the IMF turns northward, wave activity may be generated at the dayside before propagating down the tail, where the boundary layer is expected to support longer wavelengths. We use two-point observations on the dusk magnetopause at low latitudes, from Geotail on the dayside and Cluster tailward of the dusk terminator. We quantify the wavelength, power, wavefront steepness and propagation direction at Cluster. An estimate of the thickness of the low-latitude boundary layer (LLBL) is obtained by correlating normal distances to the magnetopause, derived from two empirical solar-wind-driven models, with a systematic relationship (the "transition parameter") found between the electron number density and temperature; the correlation factor is used to infer the temporal evolution of the thickness of the locally sampled layer. We find that wavelengths are controlled by the IMF clock angle, as expected when generated by the KH mechanism at the dayside, although amplitudes, wavefront steepness and propagation directions are more closely correlated with the layer thickness. A survey of parameter space provides evidence of the contribution of the KH mechanism to the widening of the electron LLBL.
Published: 05 November 2008
Oxygen ion outflow associated with the cusp and cleft give rise to persistent oxygen ion beams which can be observed over the polar cap. For high altitude spacecraft such as Cluster these beams are often observed for several hours on each occasion. This allows for a study of typical temporal structures on the time scale of minutes. We have used 3 years of data from spring, January to May of years 2001 to 2003, for a study of the oxygen number flux variation in the polar cap ion outflow. The source of these oxygen ion beams is the cusp and cleft, and variations in ionospheric upflow on time scales of around 8 min have been reported from ground based studies using incoherent scatter radar. Such upflows typically do not reach escape velocity, and further energization above the ionosphere is required for outflow to occur. Our study shows that a typical time scale between sudden number flux enhancements observed by Cluster in a geocentric distance range of 5 RE to 12 RE is 5 to 10 min. A superposed epoch study does not reveal any significant convection velocity or temperature changes around the flux enhancement events. Sudden temperature enhancements occur with a typical time interval of about 4 min, A superposed epoch study does not reveal any number flux enhancements associated with the temperature enhancements. The clear modulation of the high altitude number flux in a manner which resembles the modulation of the ionospheric upflow indicates that this is the main limiting factor determining the total outflow. The process behind transient upflow events in the ionosphere is therefore important for the total ionospheric outflow. Subsequent heating above the ionosphere appears to be common enough in the cusp/cleft region that it does not significantly modulate the oxygen ion number flux.
Published: 22 October 2008
The paper presents a brief review of recent in-situ observations of reconnection in space, with emphasis on results pertaining to the question of anti-parallel versus component reconnection, the implied spatial and temporal scales, the location of the reconnection sites, particle acceleration, reconnection rates, the dependence on plasma beta, and the properties of the diffusion region.
Published: 12 October 2008
A new method for remote sensing of the quasiperpendicular part of the bow shock surface is presented. The method is based on analysis of high frequency electric field fluctuations corresponding to Langmuir, upshifted, and downshifted oscillations in the electron foreshock. Langmuir waves usually have maximum intensity at the upstream boundary of this region. All these waves are generated by energetic electrons accelerated by quasiperpendicular zone of the shock front. Nonstationary behavior of the shock, in particular due to rippling, should result in modulation of energetic electron fluxes, thereby giving rise to variations of Langmuir waves intensity. For upshifted and downshifted oscillations, the variations of both intensity and central frequency can be observed. For the present study, WHISPER measurements of electric field spectra obtained aboard Cluster spacecraft are used to choose 48 crossings of the electron foreshock boundary with dominating Langmuir waves and to perform for the first time a statistical analysis of nonstationary behavior of quasiperpendicular zone of the Earth's bow shock. Analysis of hidden periodicities in plasma wave energy reveals shock front nonstationarity in the frequency range 0.33 fBi < f < fBi, where fBi is the proton gyrofrequency upstream of the shock, and shows that the probability to observe such a nonstationarity increases with Mach number. The profiles observed aboard different spacecraft and the dominating frequencies of the periodicities are usually different. Hence nonstationarity and/or rippling seem to be rather irregular both in space and time rather than resembling a quasiregular wave propagating on the shock surface.
Published: 24 September 2008
In this study, we investigate statistical, systematic variations of the high-latitude convection cell structure during northward IMF. Using 1-min-averages of Cluster/EDI electron drift observations above the Northern and Southern polar cap areas for six and a half years (February 2001 till July 2007), and mapping the spatially distributed measurements to a common reference plane at ionospheric level in a magnetic latitude/MLT grid, we obtained regular drift patterns according to the various IMF conditions. We focus on the particular conditions during northward IMF, where lobe cells at magnetic latitudes >80° with opposite (sunward) convection over the central polar cap are a permanent feature in addition to the main convection cells at lower latitudes. They are due to reconnection processes at the magnetopause boundary poleward of the cusp regions. Mapped EDI data have a particular good coverage within the central part of the polar cap, so that these patterns and their dependence on various solar wind conditions are well verified in a statistical sense. On average, 4-cell convection pattern are shown as regular structures during periods of nearly northward IMF with the tendency of a small shift toward negative clock angles. The positions of these high-latitude convection foci are within 79° to 85° magnetic latitude and 09:00-15:00 MLT. The MLT positions are approximately symmetric ±2 h about 11:30 MLT, i.e. slightly offset from midday toward prenoon hours, while the maximum (minimum) potential of the high-latitude cells is at higher magnetic latitudes near their maximum potential difference at ~-10° to -15° clock angle for the North (South) Hemisphere. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 13 September 2008
Low-frequency wave properties inside two hot flow anomalies (HFAs) at different stages of evolution are, for the first time, studied applying the k-filtering technique on multipoint measurements from the Cluster satellites. The observed wave activity in an HFA cavity in an early stage of its evolution was interpreted as the combination of inherent fluctuation in the solar wind and those of a plasma component specularly reflected at the Earth's bow shock, where the amplitude of the fluctuations had been enhanced by a plasma beam instability. The wave field of a more evolved HFA was found to be less complex but contained a periodicity in the wave number distribution with a period that is suggested to come from the geometry of the HFA cavity.
Published: 24 August 2008
An important problem in space physics still not understood well is how the solar wind enters the Earth's magnetosphere. Evidence is presented that transient solar wind particles produced by solar disturbances can appear in the Earth's mid-altitude (~5 RE geocentric) cusps with densities nearly equal to those in the magnetosheath. That these are magnetosheath particles is established by showing they have the same "flattop" electron distributions as magnetosheath electrons behind the bow shock. The transient ions are moving parallel to the magnetic field (B) toward Earth and often coexist with ionospheric particles that are flowing out. The accompanying waves include electromagnetic and broadband electrostatic noise emissions and Bernstein mode waves. Phase-space distributions show a mixture of hot and cold electrons and multiple ion species including field-aligned ionospheric O+ beams.
Published: 12 August 2008
This paper reports for the first time the identification of a magnetic structure around a magnetic null in a magnetic reconnection region in the magnetotail. Magnetic reconnection is one of the fundamental processes in astrophysical and solar-terrestrial plasmas. Though the concept of reconnection has been studied for many years, the process that really occurs has not been fully revealed by direct measurements. In particular, the lack of a description of three-dimensional (3-D) reconnecting magnetic field from observations makes the task more difficult. The Cluster spacecraft array provide an opportunity to reconstruct the 3-D magnetic reconnection structure based on magnetic field vectors simultaneously measured at four positions. The identification of this structure comes from a new method of analysis of in situ measurements proposed here. Applying a fitting model of 10 spherical harmonic functions and a Harris current sheet function, plus a constant field, we reconstruct a 3-D magnetic field configuration around the magnetic null in an reconnection event observed by Cluster in the geo-magnetotail.
Published: 09 August 2008
Magnetic reconnection is an important process in astrophysical, space and laboratory plasmas. The magnetic null pair structure is theoretically suggested to be a crucial feature of the three-dimensional magnetic reconnection. The physics around the null pair, however, has not been explored in combination with the magnetic field configuration deduced from in situ observations. Here, we report the identification of the configuration around a null pair and simultaneous electron dynamics near one null of the pair, observed by four Cluster spacecraft in the geo-magnetotail. Further, we propose a new scenario of electron dynamics in the null region, suggesting that electrons are temporarily trapped in the central reconnection region including electron diffusion region resulting in an electron density peak, accelerated possibly by parallel electric field and electron pressure gradient, and reflected from the magnetic cusp mirrors leading to the bi-directional energetic electron beams, which excite the observed high frequency electrostatic waves.
Published: 30 July 2008
Plasmaspheric plumes have been routinely observed by the four Cluster spacecraft. This paper presents a statistical analysis of plumes observed during five years (from 1 February 2001 to 1 February 2006) based on four-point measurements of the plasmasphere (outside 4 Earth radii) as it is sampled by the spacecraft in a narrow local time sector before and after perigee. Plasmaspheric plumes can be identified from electron density profiles derived from the electron plasma frequency determined by the WHISPER wave sounder onboard Cluster. As the WHISPER instrument has a limited frequency range (2-80 kHz) only plumes with densities below 80 cm-3 can be identified in this way. Their occurrence is studied as a function of several geomagnetic indices (Kp, am and Dst). Their transverse equatorial size, magnetic local time distribution, L position and density variation are discussed. Plasmaspheric plumes are observed mostly for moderate Kp and never for small Dst. They are found mainly in the afternoon and pre-midnight MLT sectors. Comparisons are also made between the density profiles of the plumes as they are crossed on the in- and outbound legs of the orbit, before and after perigee crossing, respectively.
Published: 07 August 2008
24-Feb-2020 22:30 UT

ShortUrl Portlet

Shortcut URL

https://sci.esa.int/p/BAlaNqw