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  1. Abstract Large-scale disturbances generated by the Sun’s dynamics first propagate through the heliosphere, influence the heliosphere’s outer boundaries, and then traverse and modify the very local interstellar medium (VLISM). The existence of shocks in the VLISM was initially suggested by Voyager observations of the 2-3 kHz radio emissions in the heliosphere. A couple of decades later, both Voyagers crossed the definitive edge of our heliosphere and became the first ever spacecraft to sample interstellar space. Since Voyager 1’s entrance into the VLISM, it sampled electron plasma oscillation events that indirectly measure the medium’s density, increasing as it moves further away from the heliopause. Some of the observed electron oscillation events in the VLISM were associated with the local heliospheric shock waves. The observed VLISM shocks were very different than heliospheric shocks. They were very weak and broad, and the usual dissipation via wave-particle interactions could not explain their structure. Estimates of the dissipation associated with the collisionality show that collisions can determine the VLISM shock structure. According to theory and models, the existence of a bow shock or wave in front of our heliosphere is still an open question as there are no direct observations yet. This paper reviews the outstanding observations recently made by the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, and our current understanding of the properties of shocks/waves in the VLISM. We present some of the most exciting open questions related to the VLISM and shock waves that should be addressed in the future. 
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  2. Electrons in earth's magnetotail are energized significantly both in the form of heating and in the form of acceleration to non-thermal energies. While magnetic reconnection is considered to play an important role in this energization, it still remains unclear how electrons are energized and how energy is partitioned between thermal and non-thermal components. Here, we show, based on in situ observations by NASA's magnetospheric multiscale mission combined with multi-component spectral fitting methods, that the average electron energy [Formula: see text] (or equivalently temperature) is substantially higher when the locally averaged electric field magnitude [Formula: see text] is also higher. While this result is consistent with the classification of “plasma-sheet” and “tail-lobe” reconnection during which reconnection is considered to occur on closed and open magnetic field lines, respectively, it further suggests that a stochastic Fermi acceleration in 3D, reconnection-driven turbulence is essential for the production and confinement of energetic electrons in the reconnection region. The puzzle is that the non-thermal power-law component can be quite small even when the electric field is large and the bulk population is significantly heated. The fraction of non-thermal electron energies varies from sample to sample between ∼20% and ∼60%, regardless of the electric field magnitude. Interestingly, these values of non-thermal fractions are similar to those obtained for the above-the-looptop hard x-ray coronal sources for solar flares. 
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  3. Abstract

    Reconnection in the magnetotail occurs along so‐called X‐lines, where magnetic field lines tear and detach from plasma on microscopic spatial scales (comparable to particle gyroradii). In 2017–2020, the Magnetospheric MultiScale (MMS) mission detected X‐lines in the magnetotail enabling their investigation on local scales. However, the global structure and evolution of these X‐lines, critical for understanding their formation and total energy conversion mechanisms, remained virtually unknown because of the intrinsically local nature of observations and the extreme sparsity of concurrent data. Here, we show that mining a multi‐mission archive of space magnetometer data collected over the last 26 yr and then fitting a magnetic field representation modeled using flexible basis‐functions faithfully reconstructs the global pattern of X‐lines; 24 of the 26 modeled X‐lines match (Bz = 0 isocontours are within ∼2 Earth radii orRE) or nearly match (Bz = 2 nT isocontours are within ∼2RE) the locations of the MMS encountered reconnection sites. The obtained global reconnection picture is considered in the context of substorm activity, including conventional substorms and more complex events.

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  4. Abstract

    We review comprehensive observations of electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) wave-driven energetic electron precipitation using data collected by the energetic electron detector on the Electron Losses and Fields InvestigatioN (ELFIN) mission, two polar-orbiting low-altitude spinning CubeSats, measuring 50-5000 keV electrons with good pitch-angle and energy resolution. EMIC wave-driven precipitation exhibits a distinct signature in energy-spectrograms of the precipitating-to-trapped flux ratio: peaks at >0.5 MeV which are abrupt (bursty) (lasting ∼17 s, or$\Delta L\sim 0.56$ΔL0.56) with significant substructure (occasionally down to sub-second timescale). We attribute the bursty nature of the precipitation to the spatial extent and structuredness of the wave field at the equator. Multiple ELFIN passes over the same MLT sector allow us to study the spatial and temporal evolution of the EMIC wave - electron interaction region. Case studies employing conjugate ground-based or equatorial observations of the EMIC waves reveal that the energy of moderate and strong precipitation at ELFIN approximately agrees with theoretical expectations for cyclotron resonant interactions in a cold plasma. Using multiple years of ELFIN data uniformly distributed in local time, we assemble a statistical database of ∼50 events of strong EMIC wave-driven precipitation. Most reside at$L\sim 5-7$L57at dusk, while a smaller subset exists at$L\sim 8-12$L812at post-midnight. The energies of the peak-precipitation ratio and of the half-peak precipitation ratio (our proxy for the minimum resonance energy) exhibit an$L$L-shell dependence in good agreement with theoretical estimates based on prior statistical observations of EMIC wave power spectra. The precipitation ratio’s spectral shape for the most intense events has an exponential falloff away from the peak (i.e., on either side of$\sim 1.45$1.45MeV). It too agrees well with quasi-linear diffusion theory based on prior statistics of wave spectra. It should be noted though that this diffusive treatment likely includes effects from nonlinear resonant interactions (especially at high energies) and nonresonant effects from sharp wave packet edges (at low energies). Sub-MeV electron precipitation observed concurrently with strong EMIC wave-driven >1 MeV precipitation has a spectral shape that is consistent with efficient pitch-angle scattering down to ∼ 200-300 keV by much less intense higher frequency EMIC waves at dusk (where such waves are most frequent). At ∼100 keV, whistler-mode chorus may be implicated in concurrent precipitation. These results confirm the critical role of EMIC waves in driving relativistic electron losses. Nonlinear effects may abound and require further investigation.

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  6. Abstract

    This paper represents the second part of an investigation of the acceleration of energetic oxygen ions from encounters with a dipolarization front (DF), based on test particle tracing in the fields of an MHD simulation. In this paper, we focus on distributions in the plasma sheet boundary layer (PSBL). O+beams close to the plasma sheet boundary are found to be less pronounced and/or delayed against the H+beams. The reason is that these particles are accelerated by nonadiabatic motion in the duskward electric field such that O+ions gain the same amount of energy, but only 1/4 of the speed of protons. This causes a delay and larger equatorward displacement by theE × Bdrift. In contrast, the O+beams somewhat deeper inside the plasma sheet, where previously multiple proton beams were found, are accelerated at an earthward propagating DF just like H+, forming a field‐aligned beam at a similar speed as the lowest‐energy H+beam. We found that the source location depends on the adiabaticity of the orbit. For larger adiabaticity, the beam ions originate initially from the outer plasma sheet, but later from the opposite PSBL or lobe, but for low adiabaticity, sources are well inside the plasma sheet. The energy gained from a single encounter of a DF is comparable to the kinetic energy associated with the front speed. Assuming maximum speeds of 500–1,000 km/s, this yields a mass dependent acceleration of about 1–5 keV for protons and 20–80 keV for oxygen ions, independent of their charge state.

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  7. Abstract

    Using an MHD simulation of near tail reconnection associated with a flow burst and the collapse (dipolarization) of the inner tail in combination with test particle tracing we study the acceleration and flux increases of energetic oxygen ions (O+). The characteristic orbits, distributions, and acceleration mechanisms are governed by the dimensionless parameterσ = ωcitn, whereωciis the ion gyro frequency andtna characteristic Alfvén time of the MHD simulation. Forσ < 1, central plasma sheet (CPS) populations after the passage of the dipolarization front are found to resemble half‐shells in velocity space oriented toward dusk. They originate from within the CPS and are energized typically by a single encounter of the region of enhanced cross‐tail electric field associated with the flow burst. For largerσvalues (σ > 1) the O+distributions resemble more closely those of protons, consisting of two counter‐streaming field‐aligned beams and an, albeit more tenuous and irregular, ring population perpendicular to the magnetic field. The existence of the beams, however, depends on suitable earthward moving source populations in the plasma sheet boundary layer or the adjacent lobes. The acceleration to higher energies is found to indicate a charge dependence, consistent with a dominance of more highly charged ions at energies of a few hundred keV. As in earlier simulations, the simulated fluxes show large anisotropies and nongyrotropic effects, phase bunching, and spatially and temporally localized beams.

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    Abstract The Electron Loss and Fields Investigation with a Spatio-Temporal Ambiguity-Resolving option (ELFIN-STAR, or heretoforth simply: ELFIN) mission comprises two identical 3-Unit (3U) CubeSats on a polar (∼93 ∘ inclination), nearly circular, low-Earth (∼450 km altitude) orbit. Launched on September 15, 2018, ELFIN is expected to have a >2.5 year lifetime. Its primary science objective is to resolve the mechanism of storm-time relativistic electron precipitation, for which electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves are a prime candidate. From its ionospheric vantage point, ELFIN uses its unique pitch-angle-resolving capability to determine whether measured relativistic electron pitch-angle and energy spectra within the loss cone bear the characteristic signatures of scattering by EMIC waves or whether such scattering may be due to other processes. Pairing identical ELFIN satellites with slowly-variable along-track separation allows disambiguation of spatial and temporal evolution of the precipitation over minutes-to-tens-of-minutes timescales, faster than the orbit period of a single low-altitude satellite (T orbit ∼ 90 min). Each satellite carries an energetic particle detector for electrons (EPDE) that measures 50 keV to 5 MeV electrons with $\Delta $ Δ E/E < 40% and a fluxgate magnetometer (FGM) on a ∼72 cm boom that measures magnetic field waves (e.g., EMIC waves) in the range from DC to 5 Hz Nyquist (nominally) with <0.3 nT/sqrt(Hz) noise at 1 Hz. The spinning satellites (T spin $\,\sim $ ∼ 3 s) are equipped with magnetorquers (air coils) that permit spin-up or -down and reorientation maneuvers. Using those, the spin axis is placed normal to the orbit plane (nominally), allowing full pitch-angle resolution twice per spin. An energetic particle detector for ions (EPDI) measures 250 keV – 5 MeV ions, addressing secondary science. Funded initially by CalSpace and the University Nanosat Program, ELFIN was selected for flight with joint support from NSF and NASA between 2014 and 2018 and launched by the ELaNa XVIII program on a Delta II rocket (with IceSatII as the primary). Mission operations are currently funded by NASA. Working under experienced UCLA mentors, with advice from The Aerospace Corporation and NASA personnel, more than 250 undergraduates have matured the ELFIN implementation strategy; developed the instruments, satellite, and ground systems and operate the two satellites. ELFIN’s already high potential for cutting-edge science return is compounded by concurrent equatorial Heliophysics missions (THEMIS, Arase, Van Allen Probes, MMS) and ground stations. ELFIN’s integrated data analysis approach, rapid dissemination strategies via the SPace Environment Data Analysis System (SPEDAS), and data coordination with the Heliophysics/Geospace System Observatory (H/GSO) optimize science yield, enabling the widest community benefits. Several storm-time events have already been captured and are presented herein to demonstrate ELFIN’s data analysis methods and potential. These form the basis of on-going studies to resolve the primary mission science objective. Broad energy precipitation events, precipitation bands, and microbursts, clearly seen both at dawn and dusk, extend from tens of keV to >1 MeV. This broad energy range of precipitation indicates that multiple waves are providing scattering concurrently. Many observed events show significant backscattered fluxes, which in the past were hard to resolve by equatorial spacecraft or non-pitch-angle-resolving ionospheric missions. These observations suggest that the ionosphere plays a significant role in modifying magnetospheric electron fluxes and wave-particle interactions. Routine data captures starting in February 2020 and lasting for at least another year, approximately the remainder of the mission lifetime, are expected to provide a very rich dataset to address questions even beyond the primary mission science objective. 
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