Articles | Volume 35, issue 2
Regular paper
24 Feb 2017
Regular paper |  | 24 Feb 2017

Average plasma sheet polytropic index as observed by THEMIS

Dennis Frühauff, Johannes Z. D. Mieth, and Karl-Heinz Glassmeier

Abstract. Multi-spacecraft data from the years 2008 to 2015 of the THEMIS mission particularly in the near-Earth plasma sheet are used in order to empirically determine the polytropic index in the quiet and active time magnetotail. The results of a number of previous studies in the 1990s can be confirmed. An analysis of the total database, although showing poor correlation, results in an average polytropic index of γ = 1. 72. The active time plasma sheet is well correlated with an average γ = 1. 49. However, the data scattering suggests that the analysis of the data in total is not adequate. In order to reduce the timescales, individual spacecraft orbits are analyzed, giving a broad distribution of polytropic indices throughout the plasma sheet. The major part of the distribution falls in a range between γ = 0. 67 and γ = 2. Our results indicate a variety of thermodynamic processes in the magnetotail and an all-time presence of heat exchange of the plasma. A description of the plasma sheet using an equation of state with a single γ is probably inadequate. This necessitates the application of more sophisticated approaches, such as a parametrization of the heat flux vector in magnetohydrodynamic equations or a superposition of polytropic indices.

Short summary
The determination of the polytropic index the plasma sheet of Earth's magnetosphere using THEMIS data. The data set reveals that the active magnetotail density and pressure data are well correlated. Yet, considering broad distributions of specific entropies, the evaluation is best performed on shorter timescales.