Articles | Volume 23, issue 4
Ann. Geophys., 23, 1481–1497, 2005
Ann. Geophys., 23, 1481–1497, 2005

  03 Jun 2005

03 Jun 2005

Characteristics of the near-tail dawn magnetopause and boundary layer

G. Paschmann1, S. Haaland1, B. U. Ö. Sonnerup2, H. Hasegawa2, E. Georgescu1, B. Klecker1, T. D. Phan3, H. Rème4, and A. Vaivads5 G. Paschmann et al.
  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany
  • 2Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA
  • 3Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 4CESR-CNRS, Toulouse, France
  • 5Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract. The paper discusses properties of the near-tail dawnside and boundary layer, as obtained from Cluster plasma and magnetic field measurements during a single skimming orbit on 4 and 5 July 2001 that included 24 well-defined crossings by all four spacecraft. As a result of variations of the interplanetary magnetic field, the magnetic shear across the local varied between ~0° and ~180°. Using an improved method, which takes into account acceleration and thickness variation, we have determined the orientation, speed, thickness and current for the 96 individual crossings. The orientations show clear evidence of surface waves. Magnetopause thicknesses range from ~100 to ~2500km, with an average of 753km. The speeds range from less than 10up to more than 300, with an average of 48. Both results are consistent with earlier ISEE and AMPTE results obtained for the dayside magnetopause. Importantly, scaling the thicknesses to the ion gyro radius or the ion inertial length did not reduce the large dynamic range. There is also no significant dependence of thickness on magnetic shear. Current densities range from ~0.01 up to ~0.3uA, with an average value of 0.05 . By including some extra crossings that did not involve all four spacecraft, we were able to apply the Walén test to a total of 60 by Cluster 1 and 3, and have classified 19 cases as rotational discontinuities (RDs), of which 12 and 7 were sunward and tailward of an X-line, respectively. Of these 60 crossings, 26 show no trace of a boundary layer. The only with substantial boundary layers are into the plasma mantle. Of the 26 without a boundary layer, 8 were identified as RDs. Since reconnection produces wedge-shaped boundary layers emanating from the X-line, RDs without may be considered close to the X-line, in which case the observed magnetic shear and Alfvén Mach number should be representative of the conditions at the X-line itself. It is therefore important that four of the eight cases had shear angles ≤100, i.e. the reconnecting fields were far from being anti-parallel, and that all eight cases had Alfvén Mach numbers MA>1 in the adjoining magnetosheath. Another important conclusion can be drawn from the without a that were tangential discontinuities (TDs). To observe TDs with no at such large distances from the subsolar point appears to rule out diffusion over large portions of the as an effective means for plasma transport across the magnetopause.