Ubiquity of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves at Earth's magnetopause.
ABSTRACT: Magnetic reconnection is believed to be the dominant process by which solar wind plasma enters the magnetosphere. However, for periods of northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) reconnection is less likely at the dayside magnetopause, and Kelvin-Helmholtz waves (KHWs) may be important agents for plasma entry and for the excitation of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves. The relative importance of KHWs is controversial because no statistical data on their occurrence frequency exist. Here we survey 7 years of in situ data from the NASA THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macro scale Interactions during Substorms) mission and find that KHWs occur at the magnetopause ?19% of the time. The rate increases with solar wind speed, Alfven Mach number and number density, but is mostly independent of IMF magnitude. KHWs may thus be more important for plasma transport across the magnetopause than previously thought, and frequently drive magnetospheric ULF waves.
Project description:Abstract At the Earth's low?latitude magnetopause, clear signatures of the Kelvin?Helmholtz (KH) waves have been frequently observed during periods of the northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), whereas these signatures have been much less frequently observed during the southward IMF. Here, we performed the first 3?D fully kinetic simulation of the magnetopause KH instability under the southward IMF condition. The simulation demonstrates that fast magnetic reconnection is induced at multiple locations along the vortex edge in an early nonlinear growth phase of the instability. The reconnection outflow jets significantly disrupt the flow of the nonlinear KH vortex, while the disrupted turbulent flow strongly bends and twists the reconnected field lines. The resulting coupling of the complex field and flow patterns within the magnetopause boundary layer leads to a quick decay of the vortex structure, which may explain the difference in the observation probability of KH waves between northward and southward IMF conditions. Key Points Three?dimensional fully kinetic simulation of Kelvin?Helmholtz instability at the Earth's magnetopause under the southward IMF condition is performed Fast reconnection causes a rapid decay of the nonlinear vortex structure in the early nonlinear growth phase of the instability The vortex decay can lead to a lower probability of observing magnetopause Kelvin?Helmholtz waves/vortices during southward IMF periods
Project description:We report on the first analysis of magnetospheric cusp observations at Saturn by multiple in situ instruments onboard the Cassini spacecraft. Using this we infer the process of reconnection was occurring at Saturn's magnetopause. This agrees with remote observations that showed the associated auroral signatures of reconnection. Cassini crossed the northern cusp around noon local time along a poleward trajectory. The spacecraft observed ion energy-latitude dispersions-a characteristic signature of the terrestrial cusp. This ion dispersion is "stepped," which shows that the reconnection is pulsed. The ion energy-pitch angle dispersions suggest that the field-aligned distance from the cusp to the reconnection site varies between ?27 and 51 R S . An intensification of lower frequencies of the Saturn kilometric radiation emissions suggests the prior arrival of a solar wind shock front, compressing the magnetosphere and providing more favorable conditions for magnetopause reconnection.We observe evidence for reconnection in the cusp plasma at SaturnWe present evidence that the reconnection process can be pulsed at SaturnSaturn's cusp shows similar characteristics to the terrestrial cusp.
Project description:Extended periods of northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) lead to the formation of a cold, dense plasma sheet due to the entry of solar wind plasma into the magnetosphere. Identifying the paths that the solar wind takes to enter the magnetosphere, and their relative importance has remained elusive. Any theoretical model of entry must satisfy observational constraints, such as the overall entry rate and the dawn-dusk asymmetry observed in the cold, dense plasma sheet. We model, using a combination of global magnetohydrodynamic and test particle simulations, solar wind ion entry into the magnetosphere during northward IMF and compare entry facilitated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability to cusp reconnection. For Kelvin-Helmholtz entry we reproduce transport rates inferred from observation and kinetic modeling and find that intravortex reconnection creates buoyant flux tubes, which provides, through interchange instability, a mechanism of filling the central plasma sheet with cold magnetosheath plasma. For cusp entry we show that an intrinsic dawn-dusk asymmetry is created during entry that is the result of alignment of the westward ion drift with the dawnward electric field typically observed during northward IMF. We show that both entry mechanisms provide comparable mass but affect entering plasma differently. The flank-entering plasma is cold and dawn-dusk symmetric, whereas the cusp-entering plasma is accelerated and preferentially deflected toward dawn. The combined effect of these entry mechanisms results in a plasma sheet population that exhibits dawn-dusk asymmetry in the manner that is seen in nature: a two-component (hot and cold) dusk flank and hotter, broadly peaked dawn population.
Project description:Abstract In this study, the ion composition of flux transfer events (FTEs) observed within the magnetosheath proper is examined. These FTEs were observed just upstream of the Earth's postnoon magnetopause by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft constellation. The minor ion characteristics are described using energy spectrograms, flux distributions, and ion moments as the constellation encountered each FTE. In conjunction with electron data and magnetic field observations, such observations provide important contextual information on the formation, topologies, and evolution of FTEs. In particular, minor ions, when combined with the field?aligned streaming of electrons, are reliable indicators of FTE topology. The observations are also placed (i) in context of the solar wind magnetic field configuration, (ii) the connection of the sampled flux tube to the ionosphere, and (iii) the location relative to the modeled reconnection line at the magnetopause. While protons and alpha particles were often depleted within the FTEs relative to the surrounding magnetosheath plasma, the He+ and O+ populations showed clear enhancements either near the center or near the edges of the FTE, and the bulk plasma flow directions are consistent with magnetic reconnection northward of the spacecraft and convection from the dayside toward the flank magnetopause. Key Points Long?duration magnetosheath FTEs observed under at postnoon local times and under similar solar wind conditions are compared and contrasted Minor ions from the magnetosphere are observed at higher energies at the edges than at the center of the FTEs The cores of the magnetosheath FTEs are on closed field lines
Project description:On 5 May 2017, MMS observed a crater-type flux rope on the dawnside tailward magnetopause with fluctuations. The boundary-normal analysis shows that the fluctuations can be attributed to nonlinear Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) waves. Reconnection signatures such as flow reversals and Joule dissipation were identified at the leading and trailing edges of the flux rope. In particular, strong northward electron jets observed at the trailing edge indicated midlatitude reconnection associated with the 3-D structure of the KH vortex. The scale size of the flux rope, together with reconnection signatures, strongly supports the interpretation that the flux rope was generated locally by KH vortex-induced reconnection. The center of the flux rope also displayed signatures of guide-field reconnection (out-of-plane electron jets, parallel electron heating, and Joule dissipation). These signatures indicate that an interface between two interlinked flux tubes was undergoing interaction, causing a local magnetic depression, resulting in an M-shaped crater flux rope, as supported by reconstruction.
Project description:Saturn's magnetic field acts as an obstacle to solar wind flow, deflecting plasma around the planet and forming a cavity known as the magnetosphere. The magnetopause defines the boundary between the planetary and solar dominated regimes, and so is strongly influenced by the variable nature of pressure sources both outside and within. Following from Pilkington et al. (2014), crossings of the magnetopause are identified using 7 years of magnetic field and particle data from the Cassini spacecraft and providing unprecedented spatial coverage of the magnetopause boundary. These observations reveal a dynamical interaction where, in addition to the external influence of the solar wind dynamic pressure, internal drivers, and hot plasma dynamics in particular can take almost complete control of the system's dayside shape and size, essentially defying the solar wind conditions. The magnetopause can move by up to 10-15 planetary radii at constant solar wind dynamic pressure, corresponding to relatively "plasma-loaded" or "plasma-depleted" states, defined in terms of the internal suprathermal plasma pressure.
Project description:The abrupt boundary between a magnetosphere and the surrounding plasma, the magnetopause, has long been known to support surface waves. It was proposed that impulses acting on the boundary might lead to a trapping of these waves on the dayside by the ionosphere, resulting in a standing wave or eigenmode of the magnetopause surface. No direct observational evidence of this has been found to date and searches for indirect evidence have proved inconclusive, leading to speculation that this mechanism might not occur. By using fortuitous multipoint spacecraft observations during a rare isolated fast plasma jet impinging on the boundary, here we show that the resulting magnetopause motion and magnetospheric ultra-low frequency waves at well-defined frequencies are in agreement with and can only be explained by the magnetopause surface eigenmode. We therefore show through direct observations that this mechanism, which should impact upon the magnetospheric system globally, does in fact occur.
Project description:Magnetic reconnection is believed to be the main driver to transport solar wind into the Earth's magnetosphere when the magnetopause features a large magnetic shear. However, even when the magnetic shear is too small for spontaneous reconnection, the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability driven by a super-Alfvénic velocity shear is expected to facilitate the transport. Although previous kinetic simulations have demonstrated that the non-linear vortex flows from the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability gives rise to vortex-induced reconnection and resulting plasma transport, the system sizes of these simulations were too small to allow the reconnection to evolve much beyond the electron scale as recently observed by the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft. Here, based on a large-scale kinetic simulation and its comparison with MMS observations, we show for the first time that ion-scale jets from vortex-induced reconnection rapidly decay through self-generated turbulence, leading to a mass transfer rate nearly one order higher than previous expectations for the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability.
Project description:New Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) observations of small-scale (~7 ion inertial length radius) flux transfer events (FTEs) at the dayside magnetopause are reported. The 10?km MMS tetrahedron size enables their structure and properties to be calculated using a variety of multispacecraft techniques, allowing them to be identified as flux ropes, whose flux content is small (~22?kWb). The current density, calculated using plasma and magnetic field measurements independently, is found to be filamentary. Intercomparison of the plasma moments with electric and magnetic field measurements reveals structured non-frozen-in ion behavior. The data are further compared with a particle-in-cell simulation. It is concluded that these small-scale flux ropes, which are not seen to be growing, represent a distinct class of FTE which is generated on the magnetopause by secondary reconnection.
Project description:The Rosetta mission provides an unprecedented possibility to study the interaction of comets with the solar wind. As the spacecraft accompanies comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from its very low-activity stage through its perihelion phase, the physics of mass loading is witnessed for various activity levels of the nucleus. While observations at other comets provided snapshots of the interaction region and its various plasma boundaries, Rosetta observations allow a detailed study of the temporal evolution of the innermost cometary magnetosphere. Owing to the short passage time of the solar wind through the interaction region, plasma instabilities such as ring--beam and non-gyrotropic instabilities are of less importance during the early life of the magnetosphere. Large-amplitude ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves, the 'singing' of the comet, is probably due to a modified ion Weibel instability. This instability drives a cross-field current of implanted cometary ions unstable. The initial pick-up of these ions causes a major deflection of the solar wind protons. Proton deflection, cross-field current and the instability induce a threefold structure of the innermost interaction region with the characteristic Mach cone and Whistler wings as stationary interaction signatures as well as the ULF waves representing the dynamic aspect of the interaction.This article is part of the themed issue 'Cometary science after Rosetta'.