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  1. Abstract

    The near‐Earth plasma sheet region is the main source of energetic (tens to hundreds keV) ion and electron populations transported by convection and injections into the inner magnetosphere. Energetic ions from the plasma sheet contribute to the ring current, whereas energetic electrons contribute to the radiation belt seed population for further acceleration to relativistic energies. Near‐Earth plasma sheet energetic fluxes have been traditionally used to set boundary conditions for radiation belt and ring current models. This study provides an empirical parametrization for ∼75 keV flux intensity as a function of the geomagnetic activity index auroral electrojet and the equatorial magnetic fieldBz. Such parametrization includes the dynamic magnetic field configuration in the near‐Earth plasma sheet and may be merged with empirical magnetic field models. We also provide models extending this parametrization to the [20, 300] keV of electron energy range and [75, 300] keV of ion energy range. The parametrization is developed based on THEMIS and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite measurements, and verified by comparison with MMS measurements in the near‐Earth plasma sheet. This parametrization incorporates meso‐scale transient flux variations associated withBzperturbations into ring current and radiation belt simulations.

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  2. An important question that is being increasingly studied across subdisciplines of Heliophysics is “how do mesoscale phenomena contribute to the global response of the system?” This review paper focuses on this question within two specific but interlinked regions in Near-Earth space: the magnetotail’s transition region to the inner magnetosphere and the ionosphere. There is a concerted effort within the Geospace Environment Modeling (GEM) community to understand the degree to which mesoscale transport in the magnetotail contributes to the global dynamics of magnetic flux transport and dipolarization, particle transport and injections contributing to the storm-time ring current development, and the substorm current wedge. Because the magnetosphere-ionosphere is a tightly coupled system, it is also important to understand how mesoscale transport in the magnetotail impacts auroral precipitation and the global ionospheric system response. Groups within the Coupling, Energetics and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions Program (CEDAR) community have also been studying how the ionosphere-thermosphere responds to these mesoscale drivers. These specific open questions are part of a larger need to better characterize and quantify mesoscale “messengers” or “conduits” of information—magnetic flux, particle flux, current, and energy—which are key to understanding the global system. After reviewing recent progress and open questions, we suggest datasets that, if developed in the future, will help answer these questions. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 27, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Low‐altitude observations of magnetospheric particles provide a unique opportunity for remote probing of the magnetospheric and plasma states during active times. We present the first statistical analysis of a specific pattern in such observations, energetic electron flux dropouts in the low‐altitude projection of the plasma sheet. Using 3.5 years of data from the ELFIN CubeSats we report the occurrence distribution of 145 energetic electron flux dropout events and identify characteristics, including their prevalence in the dusk and premidnight sectors, their association with substorms and enhanced auroral activities, and their correlation with the region‐1 (R1) field‐aligned current region. We also investigate three representative dropout events which benefit from satellite conjunctions between ELFIN, GOES, and THEMIS, to better understand the magnetospheric drivers and magnetic field conditions that lead to such dropouts as viewed by ELFIN. One class of dropouts may be associated with magnetic field mapping distortions due to local enhancements and thinning of cross‐tail current sheets and amplification of R1 field‐aligned currents. The other class may be associated with the increase in perpendicular anisotropy of magnetospheric electrons due to magnetic field dipolarizations near premidnight. These plasma sheet flux dropouts at ELFIN provide a valuable tool for refining magnetospheric models, thereby improving the accuracy of field‐line mapping during substorms.

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  4. Abstract

    Energetic (≳50 keV) electron precipitation from the magnetosphere to the ionosphere during substorms can be important for magnetosphere‐ionosphere coupling. Using conjugate observations between the THEMIS, ELFIN, and DMSP spacecraft during a substorm, we have analyzed the energetic electron precipitation, the magnetospheric injection, and the associated plasma waves to examine the role of waves in pitch‐angle scattering plasma sheet electrons into the loss cone. During the substorm expansion phase, ELFIN‐A observed 50–300 keV electron precipitation from the plasma sheet that was likely driven by wave‐particle interactions. The identification of the low‐altitude extent of the plasma sheet from ELFIN is aided by DMSP global auroral images. Combining quasi‐linear theory, numerical test particle simulations, and equatorial THEMIS measurements of particles and fields, we have evaluated the relative importance of kinetic Alfvén waves (KAWs) and whistler‐mode waves in driving the observed precipitation. We find that the KAW‐driven bounce‐averaged pitch‐angle diffusion coefficientsnear the edge of the loss cone are ∼10−6–10−5s−1for these energetic electrons. Thedue to parallel whistler‐mode waves, observed at THEMIS ∼10‐min after the ELFIN observations, are ∼10−8–10−6s−1. Thus, at least in this case, the observed KAWs dominate over the observed whistler‐mode waves in the scattering and precipitation of energetic plasma sheet electrons during the substorm injection.

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  5. Abstract

    Electron ring velocity space distributions have previously been seen in numerical simulations of magnetic reconnection exhausts and have been suggested to be caused by the magnetization of the electron outflow jet by the compressed reconnected magnetic fields (Shuster et al., 2014, We present a theory of the dependence of the major and minor radii of the ring distributions solely in terms of upstream (lobe) plasma conditions, thereby allowing a prediction of the associated temperature and temperature anisotropy of the rings in terms of upstream parameters. We test the validity of the prediction using 2.5‐dimensional particle‐in‐cell (PIC) simulations with varying upstream plasma density and temperature, finding excellent agreement between the predicted and simulated values. We confirm the Shuster et al. suggestion for the cause of the ring distributions, and also find that the ring distributions are located in a region marked by a plateau, or shoulder, in the reconnected magnetic field profile. The predictions of the temperature are consistent with observed electron temperatures in dipolarization fronts, and may provide an explanation for the generation of plasma with temperatures in the 10s of MK in super‐hot solar flares. A possible extension of the model to dayside reconnection is discussed. Since ring distributions are known to excite whistler waves, the present results should be useful for quantifying the generation of whistler waves in reconnection exhausts.

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  6. Abstract

    Using combined MHD/test particle simulations, we explore characteristics of ion (proton) acceleration tailward of a near‐Earth reconnection site. We present spatial distributions and explore acceleration mechanisms and sources of accelerated ions. Acceleration is due primarily due simple crossings of the enhanced electric field near the x‐line or in the departing plasmoid. The energetic particle distributions show the expected energy dispersed tailward streaming at the plasma sheet boundary, while equatorial distributions are more complicated, resulting from different acceleration sites within the moving plasmoid. Sources are mostly inside the central plasma sheet dawnward of the plasmoid.

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  7. Abstract

    We report an event of two‐satellite measurements of simultaneous earthward and tailward fast flows of ~500 km/s in the midtail atX ~ −63 REand evaluate magnetic reconnection as a responsible mechanism by comparing the observations with a particle‐in‐cell (PIC) simulation. The two satellites were near midnight separated mainly along theXdirection by ~5 RE. As they moved across the current sheet from the northern to southern lobes, the one closer to the Earth crossed the x line with fast flows changing from tailward to earthward, while the other one simultaneously observed tailward flows. The observed plasma and fields showed several key reconnection signatures, including the Walén relation, the fast reconnection rate of ~0.1, the Hall magnetic and electric fields, and counterstreaming electrons in the separatrix, indicating the fast flow was the reconnection exhaust. The observed temporal variations of flow speeds and magnetic fields suggested that the x line was moving tailward to a location between the two satellites and the exhaust was moving up and down. Within the exhaust, plasma pressure was highly anisotropic, and the current sheet can be unstable to the mirror, ion cyclotron, and firehose instabilities. Current sheet flapping and enhanced compressional waves near proton's local gyro frequencies were observed around the current sheet. Comparing with the PIC simulation suggests that the waves were mainly a result of oblique firehose instability.

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  8. Abstract

    Plasma sheet electron precipitation is critical in magnetosphere‐ionosphere coupling and has long been attributed to electron scattering by whistler‐mode and electron cyclotron harmonic waves. Recent observations have revealed that time domain structures (TDSs) that appear as broadband electrostatic fluctuations may also scatter plasma sheet electrons. However, there has been no observational evidence of TDS scattering electrons into the ionosphere. This study presents potential evidence from conjugate observations between the Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission and the low‐altitude Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (e‐POP) spacecraft. During the five events presented, THEMIS observed intense electron injections accompanied by TDSs, while e‐POP captured precipitation of plasma sheet electrons with energies100–325 eV over a broad pitch angle range. The observed TDSs can efficiently scatter these electrons exceeding the strong diffusion limit. Our results suggest that TDSs may contribute to plasma sheet electron scattering around times of injections.

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  9. Abstract

    The spatial scale and intensity of Earth’s magnetotail current sheet determine the magnetotail configuration, which is critical to one of the most energetically powerful phenomena in the Earth’s magnetosphere, substorms. In the absence of statistical information about plasma currents, theories of the magnetotail current sheets were mostly based on the isotropic stress balance. Such models suggest that thin current sheets cannot be long and should have strong plasma pressure gradients along the magnetotail. Using Magnetospheric Multiscale and THEMIS observations and global simulations, we explore realistic configuration of the magnetotail current sheet. We find that the magnetotail current sheet is thinner than expected from theories that assume isotropic stress balance. Observed plasma pressure gradients in thin current sheets are insufficiently strong (i.e., current sheets are too long) to balance the magnetic field line tension force. Therefore, pressure anisotropy is essential in the configuration of thin current sheets where instability precedes substorm onset.

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