Cusp Dynamics and Ionospheric Outflow
One of the IMAGE mission science goals is to understand the dayside auroral oval and its dynamic relationship to the magnetosphere. Two ways the auroral oval is dynamically coupled to the magnetosphere are through the injection of magnetosheath plasma into the magnetospheric cusps and through the ejection of ionospheric plasma into the magnetosphere. The ionospheric footpoints of the Earth’s magnetospheric cusps are relatively narrow regions in invariant latitude that map magnetically to the magnetopause. Monitoring the cusp reveals two important aspects of magnetic reconnection at the magnetopause. Continuous cusp observations reveal the relative contributions of quasi-steady versus impulsive reconnection to the overall transfer of mass, energy, and momentum across the magnetopause. The location of the cusp is used to determine where magnetic reconnection is occurring on the magnetopause. Of particular interest is the distinction between anti-parallel reconnection, where the magnetosheath and magnetospheric field lines are strictly anti-parallel, and component merging, where the magnetosheath and magnetospheric field lines have one component that is anti-parallel. IMAGE observations suggest that quasi-steady, anti-parallel reconnection is occurring in regions at the dayside magnetopause. However, it is difficult to rule out additional component reconnection using these observations.
KeywordsSolar Wind Pitch Angle Magnetic Reconnection Neutral Line Magnetic Local Time
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