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Plasmapause formation at Saturn

Plasmapause formation at Saturn
Plasmapause formation at Saturn

Cassini observations during a rapid, high-latitude, dawnside pass from Saturn's lobe to inner magnetosphere on 25 June 2009 provide strong evidence for the formation of a "plasmapause" at Saturn by Vasyliunas-type nightside reconnection of previously mass-loaded flux tubes. A population of hot, tenuous plasma that lies between the lobe and the dense inner magnetospheric plasma is consistent with a region formed by very recent injection from a reconnection region in the tail, including low density, high temperature, supercorotational flow, a significant O+ content, and the near-simultaneous observation of enhanced Saturn kilometric radiation emissions. The sharp boundary between that region and the cool dense inner magnetospheric plasma thus separates flux tubes that were involved in the reconnection from those that successfully traversed the nightside without mass loss. This event demonstrates that tail reconnection can strip off inner magnetospheric plasma in to at least dipole L = 8.6. Clear evidence of flux tube interchange driven by the sharp boundary is found, both inward moving flux tubes of hotter plasma and, for the first time, the outward moving cool population. The outward moving cool regions have azimuthal sizes less than 1 RS, were probably created within the past 1.2 h, and have outflow speeds greater than about 5 km/s. At the outer edge of the reconnected region, there is also a possible signature of Dungey-type lobe reconnection following the initial Vasyliunas-type reconnection. Observations from this event are entirely consistent with previously described global MHD simulations of tail reconnection, plasmoid departure, and Saturnward injection of reconnected flux.

magnetosphere, plasmapause, reconnection, Saturn
2169-9380
2571-2583
Thomsen, M. F.
bc09abeb-5d20-449f-9f54-568fff6d220c
Mitchell, D. G.
990d4f16-a95d-46ed-9d79-175bd5ea336d
Jia, X.
0b268c4d-354d-40fe-bf84-8618bed40f33
Jackman, C. M.
9bc3456c-b254-48f1-ade0-912c5b8b4529
Hospodarsky, G.
a8e798f4-dbcf-49c5-8e82-24c279fd6596
Coates, A. J.
04f7e558-21ff-4b0e-9586-78c946babc90
Thomsen, M. F.
bc09abeb-5d20-449f-9f54-568fff6d220c
Mitchell, D. G.
990d4f16-a95d-46ed-9d79-175bd5ea336d
Jia, X.
0b268c4d-354d-40fe-bf84-8618bed40f33
Jackman, C. M.
9bc3456c-b254-48f1-ade0-912c5b8b4529
Hospodarsky, G.
a8e798f4-dbcf-49c5-8e82-24c279fd6596
Coates, A. J.
04f7e558-21ff-4b0e-9586-78c946babc90

Thomsen, M. F., Mitchell, D. G., Jia, X., Jackman, C. M., Hospodarsky, G. and Coates, A. J. (2015) Plasmapause formation at Saturn. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 120 (4), 2571-2583. (doi:10.1002/2015JA021008).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Cassini observations during a rapid, high-latitude, dawnside pass from Saturn's lobe to inner magnetosphere on 25 June 2009 provide strong evidence for the formation of a "plasmapause" at Saturn by Vasyliunas-type nightside reconnection of previously mass-loaded flux tubes. A population of hot, tenuous plasma that lies between the lobe and the dense inner magnetospheric plasma is consistent with a region formed by very recent injection from a reconnection region in the tail, including low density, high temperature, supercorotational flow, a significant O+ content, and the near-simultaneous observation of enhanced Saturn kilometric radiation emissions. The sharp boundary between that region and the cool dense inner magnetospheric plasma thus separates flux tubes that were involved in the reconnection from those that successfully traversed the nightside without mass loss. This event demonstrates that tail reconnection can strip off inner magnetospheric plasma in to at least dipole L = 8.6. Clear evidence of flux tube interchange driven by the sharp boundary is found, both inward moving flux tubes of hotter plasma and, for the first time, the outward moving cool population. The outward moving cool regions have azimuthal sizes less than 1 RS, were probably created within the past 1.2 h, and have outflow speeds greater than about 5 km/s. At the outer edge of the reconnected region, there is also a possible signature of Dungey-type lobe reconnection following the initial Vasyliunas-type reconnection. Observations from this event are entirely consistent with previously described global MHD simulations of tail reconnection, plasmoid departure, and Saturnward injection of reconnected flux.

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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 9 March 2015
Keywords: magnetosphere, plasmapause, reconnection, Saturn

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 436470
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/436470
ISSN: 2169-9380
PURE UUID: 02e0f591-b3aa-47be-bccc-5a632f8f35e7
ORCID for C. M. Jackman: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0635-7361

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Date deposited: 11 Dec 2019 17:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 02:04

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Contributors

Author: M. F. Thomsen
Author: D. G. Mitchell
Author: X. Jia
Author: C. M. Jackman ORCID iD
Author: G. Hospodarsky
Author: A. J. Coates

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