, Volume 145, Issue 1-2, pp 7-53
Date: 08 Jan 2009

CLUSTER and IMAGE: New Ways to Study the Earth’s Plasmasphere

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Abstract

Ground-based instruments and a number of space missions have contributed to our knowledge of the plasmasphere since its discovery half a century ago, but it is fair to say that many questions have remained unanswered. Recently, NASA’s Image and ESA’s Cluster probes have introduced new observational concepts, thereby providing a non-local view of the plasmasphere. Image carried an extreme ultraviolet imager producing global pictures of the plasmasphere. Its instrumentation also included a radio sounder for remotely sensing the spacecraft environment. The Cluster mission provides observations at four nearby points as the four-spacecraft configuration crosses the outer plasmasphere on every perigee pass, thereby giving an idea of field and plasma gradients and of electric current density. This paper starts with a historical overview of classical single-spacecraft data interpretation, discusses the non-local nature of the Image and Cluster measurements, and emphasizes the importance of the new data interpretation tools that have been developed to extract non-local information from these observations. The paper reviews these innovative techniques and highlights some of them to give an idea of the flavor of these methods. In doing so, it is shown how the non-local perspective opens new avenues for plasmaspheric research.