High-beta plasma blobs in the morningside plasma sheet
- 1Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany
- 2University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA
- 3Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Sagamihara, Japan
- 4Solar-Terrestrial Environment Lab., Nagoya University, Toyokawa, Japan
Abstract. Equator-S frequently encountered, i.e. on 30% of the orbits between 1 March and 17 April 1998, strong variations of the magnetic field strength of typically 5–15-min duration outside about 9RE during the late-night/early-morning hours. Very high-plasma beta values were found, varying between 1 and 10 or more. Close conjunctions between Equator-S and Geotail revealed the spatial structure of these "plasma blobs" and their lifetime. They are typically 5–10° wide in longitude and have an antisymmetric plasma or magnetic pressure distribution with respect to the equator, while being altogether low-latitude phenomena
(≤ 15°). They drift slowly sunward, exchange plasma across the equator and have a lifetime of at least 15–30 min. While their spatial structure may be due to some sort of mirror instability, little is known about the origin of the high-beta plasma. It is speculated that the morningside boundary layer somewhat further tailward may be the source of this plasma. This would be consistent with the preference of the plasma blobs to occur during quiet conditions, although they are also found during substorm periods. The relation to auroral phenomena in the morningside oval is uncertain. The energy deposition may be mostly too weak to generate a visible signature. However, patchy aurora remains a candidate for more disturbed periods.
Key words. Magnetospheric physics (plasma convection; plasma sheet; plasma waves and instabilities)