Articles | Volume 26, issue 11
Ann. Geophys., 26, 3525–3543, 2008

Special issue: STAMMS: Spatio-Temporal Analysis and Multipoint Measurements...

Ann. Geophys., 26, 3525–3543, 2008

  17 Nov 2008

17 Nov 2008

Magnetic configurations of the tilted current sheets in magnetotail

C. Shen1, Z. J. Rong1,2, X. Li3, M. Dunlop4,5, Z. X. Liu1, H. V. Malova6, E. Lucek5, and C. Carr5 C. Shen et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Space Weather, Center for Space Science and Applied Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China
  • 2College of Earth Science, Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China
  • 3Laboratory for Atmosphere and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • 4Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, DIDCOT, Oxfordshire OX11 0QX, UK
  • 5Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK
  • 6Nuclear Physics Institute, Moscow State University, 119899 Moscow, Russia

Abstract. In this research, the geometrical structures of tilted current sheet and tail flapping waves have been analysed based on multiple spacecraft measurements and some features of the tilted current sheets have been made clear for the first time. The geometrical features of the tilted current sheet revealed in this investigation are as follows: (1) The magnetic field lines (MFLs) in the tilted current sheet are generally plane curves and the osculating planes in which the MFLs lie are about vertical to the equatorial plane, while the normal of the tilted current sheet leans severely to the dawn or dusk side. (2) The tilted current sheet may become very thin, the half thickness of its neutral sheet is generally much less than the minimum radius of the curvature of the MFLs. (3) In the neutral sheet, the field-aligned current density becomes very large and has a maximum value at the center of the current sheet. (4) In some cases, the current density is a bifurcated one, and the two humps of the current density often superpose two peaks in the gradient of magnetic strength, indicating that the magnetic gradient drift current is possibly responsible for the formation of the two humps of the current density in some tilted current sheets. Tilted current sheets often appear along with tail current sheet flapping waves. It is found that, in the tail flapping current sheets, the minimum curvature radius of the MFLs in the current sheet is rather large with values around 1 RE, while the neutral sheet may be very thin, with its half thickness being several tenths of RE. During the flapping waves, the current sheet is tilted substantially, and the maximum tilt angle is generally larger than 45°. The phase velocities of these flapping waves are several tens km/s, while their periods and wavelengths are several tens of minutes, and several earth radii, respectively. These tail flapping events generally last several hours and occur during quiet periods or periods of weak magnetospheric activity.