Articles | Volume 19, issue 10/12
Special issue:
30 Sep 2001
 | 30 Sep 2001

Cluster observes the Earth’s magnetopause: coordinated four-point magnetic field measurements

M. W. Dunlop, A. Balogh, P. Cargill, R. C. Elphic, K.-H. Fornaçon, E. Georgescu, F. Sedgemore-Schulthess, and the FGM team

Abstract. The four-spacecraft Cluster mission has provided high-time resolution measurements of the magnetic field from closely maintained separation distances (200–600 km). Four-point coverage of the Earth’s magnetopause began on the 9 and 10 November 2000 when all spacecraft first exited the dusk-side magnetosphere at about 19:00 LT, providing extensive coverage of the near flank magnetosheath and magnetopause boundary layer on re-entry to the magnetosphere. The traversals on this occasion were caused by the arrival of an intense CME at the Earth, which produced a large compression of the magnetopause and high magnetic activity. The magnetopause traversals represent an unprecedented data set, allowing detailed analysis of the local magnetic structure (gradients) and dynamics of the magnetopause boundary. By performing minimum variance analysis (MVA) on the magnetic field data from all four spacecraft, we demonstrate that the magnetopause was planar on the scale of the spacecraft separation scales and that the transverse scale size of the magnetopause boundary layer was 1000–1100 km. We also show that the motion of the boundary (defined by the magnetic shear at the current layer), is changing over the sequence of spacecraft crossings so that acceleration of the magnetopause can be very high in this region of the magnetosphere. Indeed, the magnetopause speed reaches the order of 300 km/s in response to the arrival of the interplanetary shock. Using MVA coordinates, we have identified a number of magnetospheric and magnetosheath FTE signatures, which are sampled simultaneously by all spacecraft at different distances from and on either side of the magnetopause. The signatures show a variation of scale with distance from the boundary.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (magnetopause, cusp and boundary layers) Space plasma physics (discontinuities; magnetic reconnection)

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