Articles | Volume 26, issue 6
11 Jun 2008
 | 11 Jun 2008

Observation of three distinct ion populations at the Kelvin-Helmholtz-unstable magnetopause

M. G. G. T. Taylor and B. Lavraud

Abstract. We report Double Star spacecraft observations of the dusk-flank magnetopause and its boundary layer under predominantly northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). Under such conditions the flank low-latitude boundary layers (LLBL) of the magnetosphere are known to broaden. The primary candidate processes associated with the transport of solar wind plasma into the LLBL are: (1) local diffusive plasma transport associated with the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI), (2) local plasma penetration owing to magnetic reconnection in the vicinity of the KHI-driven vortices, and (3) via a pre-existing boundary layer formed through double high-latitude reconnection on the dayside. Previous studies have shown that a cold population of solar wind origin is typically mixed with a hot population of magnetospheric origin in the LLBL. The present observations show the coexistence of three distinct ion populations in the dusk LLBL, during an interval when the magnetopause is unstable to the KHI: (1) a typical hot magnetospheric population, (2) a cold population that shows parallel temperature anisotropy, and (3) a distinct third cold population that shows perpendicular temperature anisotropy. Although no unambiguous conclusion may be drawn from this single event, we discuss the possible mechanisms at work and the origin of each population by envisaging three likely sources: hot magnetospheric plasma sheet, cold magnetosheath of solar wind origin, and cold plasma of ionospheric origin.