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

Cluster PEACE observations of electrons during magnetospheric flux transfer events

C. J. Owen, A. N. Fazakerley, P. J. Carter, A. J. Coates, I. C. Krauklis, S. Szita, M. G. G. T. Taylor, P. Travnicek, G. Watson, R. J. Wilson, A. Balogh, and M. W. Dunlop

Abstract. During the first quarter of 2001 the apogees of the Cluster spacecraft quartet precessed through midday local times. This provides the first opportunity for 4 spacecraft studies of the bow shock, magnetosheath and the dayside magnetopause current layer and boundary layers. In this paper, we present observations of electrons in the energy range ~ 10 eV–26 keV made by the Plasma Electron And Current Experiment (PEACE) located just inside the magnetopause boundary, together with supporting observations by the Flux Gate Magnetometer (FGM). During these observations, the spacecraft have separations of ~ 600 km. This scale size is of the order or less than the typical size of flux transfer events (FTEs), which are expected to be observed following bursts of reconnection on the dayside magnetopause. We study, in detail, the 3-D configuration of electron populations observed around a series of enhancements of magnetosheath-like electrons which were observed within the magnetosphere on 2 February 2001. We find that individual spacecraft observe magnetic field and electron signatures that are consistent with previous observations of magnetospheric FTEs. However, the differences in the signatures between spacecraft indicate that these FTEs have substructure on the scale of the spacecraft separation. We use these differences and the timings of the 4 spacecraft observations to infer the motions of the electron populations and thus the configuration of these substructures. We find that these FTEs are moving from noon towards dusk. The inferred size and speed of motion across the magnetopause, in one example, is ~ 0.8 RE and ~ 70 km s-1 respectively. In addition, we observe a delay in and an extended duration of the signature at the spacecraft furthest from the magnetopause. We discuss the implications of these 4 spacecraft observations for the structure of these FTEs. We suggest that these may include a compression of the closed flux tubes ahead of the FTE, which causes density and field strength enhancements; a circulation of open flux tubes within the FTE itself, which accounts for the delay in the arrival of the magnetosheath electron populations at locations deepest within the magnetosphere; and a possible trapping of magnetospheric electrons on the most recently opened flux tubes within the FTE.

Key words. Magnetospheric physics (magnetopause, cusp and boundary layers; solar wind - magnetosphere interactions)

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