Articles | Volume 27, issue 10
02 Oct 2009
 | 02 Oct 2009

THEMIS observations of compressional pulsations in the dawn-side magnetosphere: a case study

G. I. Korotova, D. G. Sibeck, V. Kondratovich, V. Angelopoulos, and O. D. Constantinescu

Abstract. We present THEMIS-A low- and high-energy plasma, magnetic field, and energetic particle observations of long period (11–36 min) irregular compressional pulsations in the dawnside magnetosphere from 08:00 to 12:24 UT on 7 November 2007. We demonstrate that the pulsations maintain thermal and magnetic pressure balance, then employ finite gyroradius techniques to determine wave properties from the gyrophase distributions of 5–10 keV ions. The waves generally move sunward at velocities ~10 km s−1 with the background plasma convection flow. Wavelengths range from 6700 to 23 300 km, corresponding to azimuthal wavenumbers m from 18 to 76. Wave periods decrease with increasing radial distance. Having determined the parameters describing the waves, we consider three previously proposed explanations: generation by substorm injection, generation by bounce or drift-bounce instabilities, and generation by the drift-mirror instability. The interval was quiet geomagnetically, arguing against any relationship to substorm injections. We found that ions with low energies of 69–628 eV or high energies of 28–615 keV would have been required to account for drift-bounce resonance during this interval, but inspection reveals ion fluxes at these energies near background levels during the time period considered. On the other hand, the criteria for the drift mirror instability are marginally satisfied. As predicted for the drift mirror instability, particle distributions peak more sharply near 90° pitch angles during magnetic field strength enhancements than during strength depressions. At this point we therefore interpret the compressional pulsations observed by THEMIS A in terms of the drift mirror instability.