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Title: Magnetospheric Field‐Aligned Current Generation by Foreshock Transients: Contribution by Flow Vortices and Pressure Gradients

Foreshock transients can result in significant dynamic pressure perturbations downstream, causing the magnetopause to move locally outward and inward. These near‐magnetopause phenomena in turn generate magnetospheric field‐aligned currents (FACs). FACs driven by solar wind impulses are commonly found to be due to flow vortices, but it remains unclear whether the FACs driven by those localized foreshock transients are contributed by flow vortices or pressure gradients. We report on a fortuitous conjunction between the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, which was observing a foreshock transient at the flank of the bow shock, and the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission, immediately downstream of MMS, which was observing magnetopause disturbances arising from that transient. Using observations from the three THEMIS spacecraft to calculate local current density perturbations within the outward motion region of the magnetosphere, we find that flow vortices play a dominant role in generating the current there; the contribution from pressure gradients is one order of magnitude smaller. Using a global hybrid simulation that reproduces the observed foreshock transient perturbations, we traced the simulated FACs generated by the transient's interaction with the magnetopause. We find that in the outward magnetopause motion region the simulated FACs are driven by flow vortices, in agreement with THEMIS observations. Deeper inside the magnetosphere, the faster convection of bipolar flow vortices than the local magnetospheric flow leads to reversal of the simulated FACs. Our results improve our understanding of how foreshock transients disturb and energize the magnetosphere‐ionosphere system.

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Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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