Cluster multispacecraft observations at the high-latitude duskside magnetopause: implications for continuous and component magnetic reconnection
Abstract. We report multispacecraft Cluster observations of magnetic reconnection at the high-latitude magnetopause/magnetospheric boundary layer (MP/BL) under mainly northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions. The event we study is on 3 December 2001 when the Cluster spacecraft were skimming the high-latitude duskside MP/BL during a period of about four hours. The orbit and configuration of the spacecraft were such that at least one satellite was present in the MP/BL during most of that period. We present the evidence of reconnection in the form of tangential stress balance between the magnetosheath and the MP/BL (Walén test) and in several cases in the form of transmitted magnetosheath ions in the MP/BL and incident/reflected magnetosheath ions in the magnetosheath boundary layer (MSBL) . The observations are consistent with magnetic reconnection occurring tailward of the cusp and going on continuously for a period of about four hours. The observed directions of the reconnection flows are consistent with the IMF orientation, thus indicating that reconnection is globally controlled by the IMF. Observations of a few flow reversals suggest passages of the spacecraft close to the X-line. The observation of low magnetic shear across the magnetopause during a flow reversal is consistent with component merging at least in one case. The observation of reconnection flows on the duskside magnetopause irrespective of the change in the sign of the IMF BY also suggests a better agreement with the component merging model, though antiparallel merging cannot be excluded because the distance from the X-line is not known.