Articles | Volume 23, issue 3
30 Mar 2005
 | 30 Mar 2005

Magnetopause current as seen by Cluster

M. W. Dunlop and A. Balogh

Abstract. The four-spacecraft, magnetic field measurements on Cluster can be combined to produce an accurate determination of the electric current in the magnetopause boundary during stable magnetopause crossings. For events that are planar on the scale of the spacecraft configuration, the thickness of the current layer can be accurately estimated from its magnetic profile at each spacecraft and the corresponding boundary crossing times. The latter, give a determination of boundary motion relative to the Cluster array. We use the estimates of all these properties, for a range of spacecraft separation distances, to show, firstly, that the estimate of electric current density is representative even when the spatial scale of the configuration of Cluster spacecraft approaches the thickness of the current layer. Secondly, we show that the estimated current lies in the plane of the boundary and demonstrate this for crossings occurring during large-scale ripples on the magnetopause. Thirdly, we show that the magnitude of the current is accurately represented, averaged over the extent of the current layer, by comparing to the change in the boundary-parallel magnetic field component divided by the estimated current layer thickness. We demonstrate this last point using a range of crossings each having a different thickness and crossing speed, different changes in the magnetic field component and different current densities.