Articles | Volume 26, issue 8
05 Aug 2008
 | 05 Aug 2008

The azimuthal extent of three flux transfer events

R. C. Fear, S. E. Milan, A. N. Fazakerley, E. A. Lucek, S. W. H. Cowley, and I. Dandouras

Abstract. In early 2006, the Cluster spacecraft crossed the dayside magnetopause twice each orbit with the spacecraft at their largest separation of the entire mission (~10 000 km). In this paper, we present in situ observations at this separation size of flux transfer events (FTEs), which are a signature of transient or time-varying magnetopause reconnection. We study a magnetopause crossing on 27 January 2006; for half an hour, the tetrahedron of Cluster spacecraft straddled the magnetopause and during this time a large number of flux transfer events were observed. Three particular FTEs were observed by all four spacecraft, enabling it to be shown that individual FTEs at the magnetopause can extend azimuthally for at least 10 000 km. By combining the Cluster tetrahedron geometry with the observed velocity of the FTEs, it can be shown that the poleward extent of one FTE is significantly smaller than its azimuthal extent. The location of the Cluster spacecraft when they observed this FTE suggests that it is inconsistent with the simple interpretation of an "elbow-shaped" flux tube. The FTE's azimuthal extent suggests that it was more likely generated at a comparatively long reconnection line or lines, although the magnetic shear across the magnetopause is not high enough to exclude the "elbow-shaped" model entirely.