Cluster observations of the high-latitude magnetopause and cusp: initial results from the CIS ion instruments
Abstract. Launched on an elliptical high inclination orbit (apogee: 19.6 RE) since January 2001 the Cluster satellites have been conducting the first detailed three-dimensional studies of the high-latitude dayside magnetosphere, including the exterior cusp, neighbouring boundary layers and magnetopause regions. Cluster satellites carry the CIS ion spectrometers that provide high-precision, 3D distributions of low-energy (<35 keV/e) ions every 4 s. This paper presents the first two observations of the cusp and/or magnetopause behaviour made under different interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions. Flow directions, 3D distribution functions, density profiles and ion composition profiles are analyzed to demonstrate the high variability of high-latitude regions. In the first crossing analyzed (26 January 2001, dusk side, IMF-BZ < 0), multiple, isolated boundary layer, magnetopause and magnetosheath encounters clearly occurred on a quasi-steady basis for ~ 2 hours. CIS ion instruments show systematic accelerated flows in the current layer and adjacent boundary layers on the Earthward side of the magnetopause. Multi-point analysis of the magnetopause, combining magnetic and plasma data from the four Cluster spacecraft, demonstrates that oscillatory outward-inward motions occur with a normal speed of the order of ± 40 km/s; the thickness of the high-latitude current layer is evaluated to be of the order of 900–1000 km. Alfvénic accelerated flows and D-shaped distributions are convincing signatures of a magnetic reconnection occurring equatorward of the Cluster satellites. Moreover, the internal magnetic and plasma structure of a flux transfer event (FTE) is analyzed in detail; its size along the magnetopause surface is ~ 12 000 km and it convects with a velocity of ~ 200 km/s. The second event analyzed (2 February 2001) corresponds to the first Cluster pass within the cusp when the IMF-BZ component was northward directed. The analysis of relevant CIS plasma data shows temporal cusp structures displaying a reverse energy-latitude "saw tooth" dispersion, typical for a bursty reconnection between the IMF and the lobe field lines. The observation of D-shaped distributions indicates that the Cluster satellites were located just a few RE from the reconnection site.
Key words. Magnetospheric physics (magnetopause, cusp, and boundary layers; magnetosheath) Space plasma physics (magnetic reconnection)