Articles | Volume 22, issue 8
Ann. Geophys., 22, 3009–3019, 2004
Ann. Geophys., 22, 3009–3019, 2004

  07 Sep 2004

07 Sep 2004

Cluster survey of the high-altitude cusp properties: a three-year statistical study

B. Lavraud1,*, A. Fedorov1, E. Budnik1, A. Grigoriev2, P. J. Cargill3, M. W. Dunlop4, H. Rème1, I. Dandouras1, and A. Balogh3 B. Lavraud et al.
  • 1Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements, 9 ave du Colonel Roche, 31028 Toulouse Cedex 4,Toulouse, France
  • 2Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Box 812, SE-981 28 Kiruna, Sweden
  • 3Imperial College, South Kensington campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK
  • 4Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Didcot OX11 0QX, UK
  • *now at: Space and atmospheric sciences, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, NM 87545, USA

Abstract. The global characteristics of the high-altitude cusp and its surrounding regions are investigated using a three-year statistical survey based on data obtained by the Cluster spacecraft. The analysis involves an elaborate orbit-sampling methodology that uses a model field and takes into account the actual solar wind conditions and level of geomagnetic activity. The spatial distribution of the magnetic field and various plasma parameters in the vicinity of the low magnetic field exterior cusp are determined and it is found that: 1) The magnetic field distribution shows the presence of an intermediate region between the magnetosheath and the magnetosphere: the exterior cusp, 2) This region is characterized by the presence of dense plasma of magnetosheath origin; a comparison with the Tsyganenko (1996) magnetic field model shows that it is diamagnetic in nature, 3) The spatial distributions show that three distinct boundaries with the lobes, the dayside plasma sheet and the magnetosheath surround the exterior cusp, 4) The external boundary with the magnetosheath has a sharp bulk velocity gradient, as well as a density decrease and temperature increase as one goes from the magnetosheath to the exterior cusp, 5) While the two inner boundaries form a funnel, the external boundary shows no clear indentation, 6) The plasma and magnetic pressure distributions suggest that the exterior cusp is in equilibrium with its surroundings in a statistical sense, and 7) A preliminary analysis of the bulk flow distributions suggests that the exterior cusp is stagnant under northward IMF conditions but convective under southward IMF conditions.