Solar Physics

, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 329–336

The reason for magnetospheric substorms and solar flares

  • Walter J. Heikkila

DOI: 10.1007/BF00196196

Cite this article as:
Heikkila, W.J. Sol Phys (1983) 88: 329. doi:10.1007/BF00196196


It has been proposed that magnetospheric substorms and solar flares are a result of the same mechanism. In our view this mechanism is connected with the escape, or attempted escape, of energized plasma from a region of closed magnetic field lines bounded by a magnetic bottle. In the case of the Earth, it must be plasma that is able to maintain a discrete auroral arc, and we propose that the cross-tail current connected to the arc is filamentary in nature to provide the field-aligned current sheet above the arc. A localized meander of such an intense current filament could be caused by a tearing instability in the neutral sheet. Such a meander will cause an inductive electric field opposing the current change everywhere. In trying to reduce the component of the induction electric field parallel to the magnetic field lines, the plasma must enhance the transverse or cross-tail component; this action leads to eruptive behavior, in agreement with tearing theories. This enhanced induction electric field will cause a discharge along the magnetic neutral line at the apex of the magnetic arches, constituting an impulsive acceleration of all charged particles originally near the neutral line. The products of this phase then undergo betatron acceleration for a second phase. This discharge eventually reduces the electric field along the neutral line, and thereafter the enclosed magnetic flux through the neutral line remains nearly constant. The result is a plasmoid that has definite identity; its buoyancy leads to its escape. The auroral breakup (and solar flare) is the complex plasma response to the changing electromagnetic field.

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter J. Heikkila
    • 1
  1. 1.CNET/CRPEIssy-les-MoulineauxFrance
  2. 2.Center for Space Sciences, University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

Personalised recommendations