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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 22, issue 5
Ann. Geophys., 22, 1739–1754, 2004
© Author(s) 2004. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 22, 1739–1754, 2004
© Author(s) 2004. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  08 Apr 2004

08 Apr 2004

CLUSTER encounters with the high altitude cusp: boundary structure and magnetic field depletions

P. J. Cargill1, M. W. Dunlop2,1, B. Lavraud3, R. C. Elphic4, D. L. Holland5, K. Nykyri1, A. Balogh1, I. Dandouras3, and H. Rème3 P. J. Cargill et al.
  • 1Space and Atmospheric Physics, Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College, London SW7 2BW, UK
  • 2Space Science Department, Rutherford Appleton Lab., UK
  • 3Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements, Toulouse, France
  • 4Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, USA
  • 5Dept. of Physics, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

Abstract. Data from the four spacecraft Cluster mission during a high altitude cusp crossing on 13 February 2001 are presented. The spacecraft configuration has one leading spacecraft, with the three trailing spacecraft lying in a plane that corresponds roughly to the nominal magnetopause surface. The typical spacecraft separation is approximately 600km. The encounter occurs under conditions of strong and steady southward Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF). The cusp is identified as a seven-minute long depression in the magnetic field, associated with ion heating and a high abundance of He+. Cusp entry involves passage through a magnetopause boundary that has undergone very significant distortion from its nominal shape, is moving rapidly, and exhibits structure on scales of the order of the spacecraft separation or less. This boundary is associated with a rotation of the magnetic field, a normal field component, and a plasma flow into the cusp of approximately 35 km/s. However, it cannot be identified positively as a rotational discontinuity. Exit from the cusp into the lobe is through a boundary that is initially sharp, but then retreats tailward at a few km/s. As the leading spacecraft passes through this boundary, there is a plasma flow out of the cusp of approximately 30km/s, suggesting that this is not a tangential discontinuity. A few minutes after exit from the cusp, the three trailing the spacecraft see a single cusp-like signature in the magnetic field. There is an associated temperature increase at two of the three trailing spacecraft. Timing measurements indicate that this is due to cusp-like regions detaching from the rear of the cusp boundary, and moving tailward. The magnetic field in the cusp is highly disordered, with no obvious relation between the four spacecraft, indicative of structure on scales <<600km. However, the plasma moments show only a gradual change over many minutes. A similar cusp crossing on 20 February 2001 also shows a field depression and highly dynamic boundaries.

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

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