Articles | Volume 15, issue 10
31 Oct 1997
31 Oct 1997

Spatial structure of the plasma sheet boundary layer at distances greater than 180 RE as derived from energetic particle measurements on GEOTAIL

D. V. Sarafopoulos, E. T. Sarris, V. Angelopoulos, T. Yamamoto, and S. Kokubun

Abstract. We have analyzed the onsets of energetic particle bursts detected by the ICS and STICS sensors of the EPIC instrument on board the GEOTAIL spacecraft in the deep magnetotail (i.e., at distances greater than 180 RE). Such bursts are commonly observed at the plasma-sheet boundary layer (PSBL) and are highly collimated along the magnetic field. The bursts display a normal velocity dispersion (i.e., the higher-speed particles are seen first, while the progressively lower speed particles are seen later) when observed upon entry of the spacecraft from the magnetotail lobes into the plasma sheet. Upon exit from the plasma sheet a reverse velocity dispersion is observed (i.e., lower-speed particles disappear first and higher-speed particles disappear last). Three major findings are as follows. First, the tailward-jetting energetic particle populations of the distant-tail plasma sheet display an energy layering: the energetic electrons stream along open PSBL field lines with peak fluxes at the lobes. Energetic protons occupy the next layer, and as the spacecraft moves towards the neutral sheet progressively decreasing energies are encountered systematically. These plasma-sheet layers display spatial symmetry, with the plane of symmetry the neutral sheet. Second, if we consider the same energy level of energetic particles, then the H+ layer is confined within that of the energetic electron, the He++ layer is confined within that of the proton, and the oxygen layer is confined within the alpha particle layer. Third, whenever the energetic electrons show higher fluxes inside the plasma sheet as compared to those at the boundary layer, their angular distribution is isotropic irrespective of the Earthward or tailward character of fluxes, suggesting a closed field line topology.