Ion-scale secondary flux ropes generated by magnetopause reconnection as resolved by MMS.
ABSTRACT: 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 Vlasiator hybrid-Vlasov code was developed to investigate global magnetospheric dynamics at ion-kinetic scales. Here we focus on the role of magnetic reconnection in the formation and evolution of magnetic islands at the low-latitude magnetopause, under southward interplanetary magnetic field conditions. The simulation results indicate that (1) the magnetic reconnection ion kinetics, including the Earthward pointing Larmor electric field on the magnetospheric side of an X-point and anisotropic ion distributions, are well-captured by Vlasiator, thus enabling the study of reconnection-driven magnetic island evolution processes, (2) magnetic islands evolve due to continuous reconnection at adjacent X-points, "coalescence" which refers to the merging of neighboring islands to create a larger island, "erosion" during which an island loses magnetic flux due to reconnection, and "division" which involves the splitting of an island into smaller islands, and (3) continuous reconnection at adjacent X-points is the dominant source of magnetic flux and plasma to the outer layers of magnetic islands resulting in cross-sectional growth rates up to +?0.3 RE 2/min. The simulation results are compared to the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) measurements of a chain of ion-scale flux transfer events (FTEs) sandwiched between two dominant X-lines. The MMS measurements similarly reveal (1) anisotropic ion populations and (2) normalized reconnection rate ~0.18, in agreement with theory and the Vlasiator predictions. Based on the simulation results and the MMS measurements, it is estimated that the observed ion-scale FTEs may grow Earth-sized within ~10 min, which is comparable to the average transport time for FTEs formed in the subsolar region to the high-latitude magnetopause. Future simulations shall revisit reconnection-driven island evolution processes with improved spatial resolutions.
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:Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental plasma process, by which magnetic energy is explosively released in the current sheet to energize charged particles and to create bi-directional Alfvénic plasma jets. Numerical simulations predicted that evolution of the reconnecting current sheet is dominated by formation and interaction of magnetic flux ropes, which finally leads to turbulence. Accordingly, most volume of the reconnecting current sheet is occupied by the ropes, and energy dissipation occurs via multiple relevant mechanisms, e.g., the parallel electric field, the rope coalescence and the rope contraction. As an essential element of the reconnecting current sheet, however, how these ropes evolve has been elusive. Here, we present direct evidence of secondary reconnection in the filamentary currents within the ropes. The observations indicate that secondary reconnection can make a significant contribution to energy conversion in the kinetic scale during turbulent reconnection.
Project description: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: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:Accurate knowledge of Mercury's magnetospheric magnetic field is required to understand the sources of the planet's internal field. We present the first model of Mercury's magnetospheric magnetic field confined within a magnetopause shape derived from Magnetometer observations by the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft. The field of internal origin is approximated by a dipole of magnitude 190?nT <i>R<sub>M</sub></i><sup>3</sup>, where <i>R<sub>M</sub></i> is Mercury's radius, offset northward by 479?km along the spin axis. External field sources include currents flowing on the magnetopause boundary and in the cross-tail current sheet. The cross-tail current is described by a disk-shaped current near the planet and a sheet current at larger (??5?<i>R<sub>M</sub></i> ) antisunward distances. The tail currents are constrained by minimizing the root-mean-square (RMS) residual between the model and the magnetic field observed within the magnetosphere. The magnetopause current contributions are derived by shielding the field of each module external to the magnetopause by minimizing the RMS normal component of the magnetic field at the magnetopause. The new model yields improvements over the previously developed paraboloid model in regions that are close to the magnetopause and the nightside magnetic equatorial plane. Magnetic field residuals remain that are distributed systematically over large areas and vary monotonically with magnetic activity. Further advances in empirical descriptions of Mercury's magnetospheric external field will need to account for the dependence of the tail and magnetopause currents on magnetic activity and additional sources within the magnetosphere associated with Birkeland currents and plasma distributions near the dayside magnetopause.
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:Magnetic reconnection plays a key role in the conversion of magnetic energy into the thermal and kinetic energy of plasma. On either side of the diffusion region in space plasma, the conditions for the occurrence of reconnections are usually not symmetric. Previous theoretical studies have predicted that reconnections under asymmetric conditions will bear different features compared with those of symmetric reconnections, and numerical simulations have verified these distinct features. However, to date, the features of asymmetric reconnections have not been thoroughly investigated using in situ observations; thus, some results from theoretical studies and simulations have not been tested with observations sufficiently well. Here, spacecraft observations are used in a statistical investigation of asymmetric magnetic reconnection exhaust at the dayside magnetopause. The resulting observational features are consistent with the theoretical predictions. The results presented here advance our understanding of the development of reconnections under asymmetric conditions.
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:During a magnetic storm on 23 June 2015, several very intense substorms took place, with signatures observed by multiple spacecraft including DMSP and Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS). At the time of interest, DMSP F18 crossed inbound through a poleward expanding auroral bulge boundary at 23.5 h magnetic local time (MLT), while MMS was located duskward of 22 h MLT during an inward crossing of the expanding plasma sheet boundary. The two spacecraft observed a consistent set of signatures as they simultaneously crossed the reconnection separatrix layer during this very intense reconnection event. These include (1) energy dispersion of the energetic ions and electrons traveling earthward, accompanied with high electron energies in the vicinity of the separatrix; (2) energy dispersion of polar rain electrons, with a high-energy cutoff; and (3) intense inward convection of the magnetic field lines at the MMS location. The high temporal resolution measurements by MMS provide unprecedented observations of the outermost electron boundary layer. We discuss the relevance of the energy dispersion of the electrons, and their pitch angle distribution, to the spatial and temporal evolution of the boundary layer. The results indicate that the underlying magnetotail magnetic reconnection process was an intrinsically impulsive and the active X-line was located relatively close to the Earth, approximately at 16-18 RE.