Articles | Volume 27, issue 2
16 Feb 2009
 | 16 Feb 2009

Cluster and Double Star multipoint observations of a plasma bubble

A. P. Walsh, A. N. Fazakerley, A. D. Lahiff, M. Volwerk, A. Grocott, M. W. Dunlop, A. T. Y. Lui, L. M. Kistler, M. Lester, C. Mouikis, Z. Pu, C. Shen, J. Shi, M. G. G. T. Taylor, E. Lucek, T. L. Zhang, and I. Dandouras

Abstract. Depleted flux tubes, or plasma bubbles, are one possible explanation of bursty bulk flows, which are transient high speed flows thought to be responsible for a large proportion of flux transport in the magnetotail. Here we report observations of one such plasma bubble, made by the four Cluster spacecraft and Double Star TC-2 around 14:00 UT on 21 September 2005, during a period of southward, but BY-dominated IMF. In particular the first direct observations of return flows around the edges of a plasma bubble, and the first observations of plasma bubble features within 8 RE of the Earth, consistent with MHD simulations (Birn et al., 2004) are presented. The implications of the presence of a strong BY in the IMF and magnetotail on the propagation of the plasma bubble and development of the associated current systems in the magnetotail and ionosphere are discussed. It is suggested that a strong BY can rotate the field aligned current systems at the edges of the plasma bubble away from its duskward and dawnward flanks.