Articles | Volume 27, issue 10
20 Oct 2009
 | 20 Oct 2009

On the error estimation of multi-spacecraft timing method

X.-Z. Zhou, Z. Y. Pu, Q.-G. Zong, P. Song, S. Y. Fu, J. Wang, and H. Zhang

Abstract. The multi-spacecraft timing method, a data analysis technique based on four-point measurements to obtain the normal vector and velocity of an observed boundary, has been widely applied to various discontinuities in the solar wind and the magnetosphere studies. In this paper, we perform simulations to analyze the errors of the timing method by specifying the error sources to the uncertainties in the determination of the time delays between each spacecraft pair. It is shown that the timing method may have large errors if either the spacecraft tetrahedron is largely elongated and/or flattened, or the discontinuity moves much slower than the constellation itself. The results, therefore, suggest that some of the applications of the timing method require reexamination with special caution, in particular for the studies of the slow-moving discontinuities associated with, for example, the plasmaspheric plumes.