Earth's magnetosphere and outer radiation belt under sub-Alfvenic solar wind.
ABSTRACT: The interaction between Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind results in the formation of a collisionless bow shock 60,000-100,000?km upstream of our planet, as long as the solar wind fast magnetosonic Mach (hereafter Mach) number exceeds unity. Here, we present one of those extremely rare instances, when the solar wind Mach number reached steady values <1 for several hours on 17 January 2013. Simultaneous measurements by more than ten spacecraft in the near-Earth environment reveal the evanescence of the bow shock, the sunward motion of the magnetopause and the extremely rapid and intense loss of electrons in the outer radiation belt. This study allows us to directly observe the state of the inner magnetosphere, including the radiation belts during a type of solar wind-magnetosphere coupling which is unusual for planets in our solar system but may be common for close-in extrasolar planets.
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: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 most recent "grand minimum" of solar activity, the Maunder minimum (MM, 1650-1710), is of great interest both for understanding the solar dynamo and providing insight into possible future heliospheric conditions. Here, we use nearly 30 years of output from a data-constrained magnetohydrodynamic model of the solar corona to calibrate heliospheric reconstructions based solely on sunspot observations. Using these empirical relations, we produce the first quantitative estimate of global solar wind variations over the last 400 years. Relative to the modern era, the MM shows a factor 2 reduction in near-Earth heliospheric magnetic field strength and solar wind speed, and up to a factor 4 increase in solar wind Mach number. Thus solar wind energy input into the Earth's magnetosphere was reduced, resulting in a more Jupiter-like system, in agreement with the dearth of auroral reports from the time. The global heliosphere was both smaller and more symmetric under MM conditions, which has implications for the interpretation of cosmogenic radionuclide data and resulting total solar irradiance estimates during grand minima.
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'.
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 statistics of extrasolar planetary systems indicate that the default mode of planet formation generates planets with orbital periods shorter than 100 days and masses substantially exceeding that of the Earth. When viewed in this context, the Solar System is unusual. Here, we present simulations which show that a popular formation scenario for Jupiter and Saturn, in which Jupiter migrates inward from a > 5 astronomical units (AU) to a ? 1.5 AU before reversing direction, can explain the low overall mass of the Solar System's terrestrial planets, as well as the absence of planets with a < 0.4 AU. Jupiter's inward migration entrained s ? 10-100 km planetesimals into low-order mean motion resonances, shepherding and exciting their orbits. The resulting collisional cascade generated a planetesimal disk that, evolving under gas drag, would have driven any preexisting short-period planets into the Sun. In this scenario, the Solar System's terrestrial planets formed from gas-starved mass-depleted debris that remained after the primary period of dynamical evolution.
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:A distinct class of aurora, called transpolar auroral arc (TPA) (in some cases called "theta" aurora), appears in the extremely high-latitude ionosphere of the Earth when interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) is northward. The formation and evolution of TPA offers clues about processes transferring energy and momentum from the solar wind to the magnetosphere and ionosphere during a northward IMF. However, their formation mechanisms remain poorly understood and controversial. We report a mechanism identified from multiple-instrument observations of unusually bright, multiple TPAs and simulations from a high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) global MagnetoHydroDynamics (MHD) model. The observations and simulations show an excellent agreement and reveal that these multiple TPAs are generated by precipitating energetic magnetospheric electrons within field-aligned current (FAC) sheets. These FAC sheets are generated by multiple-flow shear sheets in both the magnetospheric boundary produced by Kelvin-Helmholtz instability between supersonic solar wind flow and magnetosphere plasma, and the plasma sheet generated by the interactions between the enhanced earthward plasma flows from the distant tail (less than -100 RE) and the enhanced tailward flows from the near tail (about -20 RE). The study offers insight into the complex solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling processes under a northward IMF condition, and it challenges existing paradigms of the dynamics of the Earth's magnetosphere.
Project description:The nearly circular (mean eccentricity [Formula: see text]) and coplanar (mean mutual inclination [Formula: see text]) orbits of the solar system planets motivated Kant and Laplace to hypothesize that planets are formed in disks, which has developed into the widely accepted theory of planet formation. The first several hundred extrasolar planets (mostly Jovian) discovered using the radial velocity (RV) technique are commonly on eccentric orbits ([Formula: see text]). This raises a fundamental question: Are the solar system and its formation special? The Kepler mission has found thousands of transiting planets dominated by sub-Neptunes, but most of their orbital eccentricities remain unknown. By using the precise spectroscopic host star parameters from the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) observations, we measure the eccentricity distributions for a large (698) and homogeneous Kepler planet sample with transit duration statistics. Nearly half of the planets are in systems with single transiting planets (singles), whereas the other half are multiple transiting planets (multiples). We find an eccentricity dichotomy: on average, Kepler singles are on eccentric orbits with [Formula: see text] 0.3, whereas the multiples are on nearly circular [Formula: see text] and coplanar [Formula: see text] degree) orbits similar to those of the solar system planets. Our results are consistent with previous studies of smaller samples and individual systems. We also show that Kepler multiples and solar system objects follow a common relation [[Formula: see text](1-2)[Formula: see text]] between mean eccentricities and mutual inclinations. The prevalence of circular orbits and the common relation may imply that the solar system is not so atypical in the galaxy after all.
Project description:Kinetic effects resulting from the two-fluid physics play a crucial role in the fast collisionless reconnection, which is a process to explosively release massive energy stored in magnetic fields in space and astrophysical plasmas. In-situ observations in the Earth's magnetosphere provide solid consistence with theoretical models on the point that kinetic effects are required in the collisionless reconnection. However, all the observations associated with solar wind reconnection have been analyzed in the context of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) although a lot of solar wind reconnection exhausts have been reported. Because of the absence of kinetic effects and substantial heating, whether the reconnections are still ongoing when they are detected in the solar wind remains unknown. Here, by dual-spacecraft observations, we report a solar wind reconnection with clear Hall magnetic fields. Its corresponding Alfvenic electron outflow jet, derived from the decouple between ions and electrons, is identified, showing direct evidence for kinetic effects that dominate the collisionless reconnection. The turbulence associated with the exhaust is a kind of background solar wind turbulence, implying that the reconnection generated turbulence has not much developed.