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Title: Magnetotail plasma eruptions driven by magnetic reconnection and kinetic instabilities

Rapid plasma eruptions explosively release energy within Earth’s magnetosphere, at the Sun and at other planets. At Earth, these eruptions, termed plasmoids, occur in the magnetospheric nightside and are associated with sudden brightening of the aurora. The chain of events leading to the plasmoid is one of the longest-standing unresolved questions in space physics. Two competing paradigms have been proposed to explain the course of events. The first asserts that magnetic reconnection changes the magnetic topology in the tail, severing a part of the magnetosphere as plasmoid. The second employs kinetic instabilities that first disrupt the current sheet supporting the magnetotail and launch waves that trigger the topological change to eject the plasmoid. Here we numerically simulate Earth’s magnetosphere at realistic scales using a model that captures the physics underlying both paradigms. We show that both magnetic reconnection and kinetic instabilities are required to induce a global topological reconfiguration of the magnetotail, thereby combining the seemingly contradictory paradigms. Our results help to understand how plasma eruptions may take place, guide spacecraft constellation mission design to capture these ejections in observations and lead to improved understanding of space weather by improving the predictability of the plasmoids.

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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Geoscience
Medium: X Size: p. 570-576
["p. 570-576"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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