Interactions of the heliospheric current and plasma sheets with the bow shock: Cluster and Polar observations in the magnetosheath


On 12 March 2001, the Polar and Cluster spacecraft were at subsolar and cusp latitudes in the dayside magnetosheath, respectively, where they monitored the passage by Earth of a large-scale planar structure containing the high-density heliospheric plasma sheet (HPS) and the embedded current sheet. Over significant intervals, as the magnetic hole of the HPS passed Cluster and Polar, magnetic field strengths ∣B∣ were much smaller than expected for the shocked interplanetary magnetic field. For short periods, ∣B∣ even fell below values measured by ACE in the upstream solar wind. Within the magnetic hole the ratio of plasma thermal and magnetic pressures (plasma β) was consistently >100 and exceeded 1000. A temporary increase in lag times for identifiable features in B components to propagate from the location of ACE to those of Cluster and Polar was associated with the expansion (and subsequent compression) of the magnetic field and observed low ∣B∣. Triangulation of the propagation velocity of these features across the four Cluster spacecraft configuration showed consistency with the measured component of ion velocity normal to the large-scale planar structure. B experienced large-amplitude wave activity, including fast magnetosonic waves. Within the low ∣B∣ region, guiding center behavior was disrupted and ions were subject to hydrodynamic rather than magnetohydrodynamic forcing. Under the reported conditions, a significant portion of the interplanetary coupling to the magnetosphere should proceed through interaction with the low-latitude boundary layer. Data acquired during a nearly simultaneous high-latitude pass of a Defense Meteorological Satellites Program satellite are consistent with this conjecture.

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JGR: Space Physics



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