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Magnetic reconnection in space plasmas

Description: This is the final report of a three-year, Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD) project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Magnetic reconnection produces fundamental changes in the magnetic field topology of plasmas and leads ultimately to substantial plasma heating and acceleration. The transfer of stored magnetic field energy to the plasma occurs primarily at thin conversion layers that extend outward from the reconnection site. We performed a comparative study of the structure and nature of these conversion layers as observed during reconnection at Earth`s magnetopause and in the geomagnetic tail. Our research utilized plasma and magnetic field data from the Earth-orbiting ISEE satellites during crossings of the conversion layers at the magnetopause and in the geomagnetic tail, as well as data obtained during a long-duration balloon flight in Antarctica and simultaneously from satellites in geosynchronous orbit. We have found that the reconnection layer at the magnetopause usually does not contain a slow mode shock, contrary to earlier theoretical expectations. Through a coordinated analysis of data obtained from balloon altitudes and at geosynchronous orbit, we obtained evidence that reconnection can occur simultaneously in both hemispheres at the magnetopause above the polar caps. The final year of our study was oriented primarily towards the question of determining the magnetic topology of disturbances in the solar wind associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and understanding how that topology is affected by magnetic reconnection occurring near the Sun.
Date: April 1, 1996
Creator: Gosling, J.; Feldman, W. & Walthour, D.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Kinetic Alfven waves and plasma transport at the magnetopause

Description: Large amplitude compressional type waves, with frequencies ranging from 10--500 mHz, are nearly always found in the magnetosheath near the magnetopause where there are large gradients in density, pressure and magnetic field. As compressional waves propagation to the magnetopause, there gradients efficiently couple them with shear/kinetic Alfven waves near the Alfven field-line resonance location ({omega} = k{sub {parallel}} v{sub A}). The authors present a solution of the kinetic-MHD wave equations for this process using a realistic equilibrium profile including full ion Larmor radius effects and wave-particle resonance interactions for electrons and ions to model the dissipation. For northward IMF a KAW propagates backward to the magnetosheath. For southward IMF the wave remains in the magnetopause but can propagate through the k{sub {parallel}} = 0 location. The quasi-linear theory predicts that KAWs produce plasma transport with a diffusion coefficient D{sub {perpendicular}} {approximately} 10{sup 9} m{sup 2}/s and plasma convection on the order of 1 km/s. However, for southward IMF additional transport can occur because magnetic islands form at the k{sub {parallel}} = 0 location. Due to the broadband nature of the observed waves these islands can overlap leading to stochastic transport which is much larger than that due to quasilinear effects.
Date: May 1, 1997
Creator: Johnson, J.R. & Cheng, C.Z.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Signatures of mode conversion and kinetic Alfven waves at the magnetopause

Description: It has been suggested that resonant mode conversion of compressional MHD waves into kinetic Alfven waves at the magnetopause can explain the abrupt transition in wave polarization from compressional to transverse commonly observed during magnetopause crossings. The authors analyze magnetic field data for magnetopause crossings as a function of magnetic shear angle (defined as the angle between the magnetic fields in the magnetosheath and magnetosphere) and compare with the theory of resonant mode conversion. The data suggest that amplification in the transverse magnetic field component at the magnetopause is not significant up to a threshold magnetic shear angle. Above the threshold angle significant amplification results, but with weak dependence on magnetic shear angle. Waves with higher frequency are less amplified and have a higher threshold angle. These observations are qualitatively consistent with theoretical results obtained from the kinetic-fluid wave equations.
Date: July 21, 2000
Creator: Johnson, Jay R. & Cheng, C. Z.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Stochastic Ion Heating at the Magnetopause due to Kinetic Alfven Waves

Description: The magnetopause and boundary layer are typically characterized by large amplitude transverse wave activity with frequency below the ion cyclotron frequency. The signatures of the transverse waves suggest that they are kinetic Alfven waves with wavelength on the order of the ion gyroradius. We investigate ion motion in the presence of large amplitude kinetic Alfven waves with wavelength the order of rho(subscript ''i'') and demonstrate that for sufficiently large wave amplitude (delta B(subscript ''perpendicular'')/B(subscript ''0'') > 0.05) the particle orbits become stochastic. As a result, low energy particles in the core of the ion distribution can migrate to higher energy through the stochastic sea leading to an increase in T(subscript ''perpendicular'') and a broadening of the distribution. This process can explain transverse ion energization and formation of conics which have been observed in the low-latitude boundary layer.
Date: August 10, 2001
Creator: Johnson, Jay R. & Cheng, C.Z.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Global structure of mirror modes in the magnetosheath

Description: A global stability analysis of mirror modes in the magnetosheath is presented. The analysis is based upon the kinetic-MHD formulation which includes relevant kinetic effects such as Landau resonance and gradient drift effects related to inhomogeneities in the background density, temperature, pressure and its anisotropy, magnetic field, and plasma flow velocity. Pressure anisotropy provides the free energy for the global mirror mode. The local theory of mirror modes predicts purely growing modes confined in the unstable magnetosheath region; however, the nonlocal theory that includes the effects of gradients and plasma flow predicts modes with real frequencies which propagate with the flow from the magnetosheath toward the magnetopause boundary. The real frequency is on the order of a combination of the diamagnetic drift frequency and the Doppler shift frequency associated with plasma flow. The diamagnetic drift frequency provides a wave phase velocity in the direction of the magnetopause so that wave energy accumulates against the magnetopause boundary, and the amplitude is skewed in that direction. On the other hand, plasma flow also gives rise to a real phase velocity, but the phase velocity is smaller than the flow velocity. As a result, the wave amplitude is increased in the wake of the plasma flow and piles up against the bow shock boundary.
Date: November 1, 1996
Creator: Johnson, J.R. & Cheng, C.Z.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Kinetic Alfven Waves at the Magnetopause--Mode Conversion, Transport and Formation of LLBL

Description: At the magnetopause, large amplitude, low-frequency (ULF), transverse MHD waves are nearly always observed. These waves likely result from mode conversion of compressional MHD waves observed in the magnetosheath to kinetic Alfven waves at the magnetopause where there is a steep gradient in the Alfven velocity [Johnson and Cheng, Geophys. Res. Lett. 24 (1997) 1423]. The mode-conversion process can explain the following wave observations typically found during satellite crossings of the magnetopause: (1) a dramatic change in wave polarization from compressional in the magnetosheath to transverse at the magnetopause, (2) an amplification of wave amplitude at the magnetopause, (3) a change in Poynting flux from cross-field in the magnetosheath to field-aligned at the magnetopause, and (4) a steepening in the wave power spectrum at the magnetopause. We examine magnetic field data from a set of ISEE1, ISEE2, and WIND magnetopause crossings and compare with the predictions of theoretical wave solutions based on the kinetic-fluid model with particular attention to the role of magnetic field rotation across the magnetopause. The results of the study suggest a good qualitative agreement between the observations and the theory of mode conversion to kinetic Alfven waves. Because mode-converted kinetic Alfven waves readily decouple particles from the magnetic field lines, efficient quasilinear transport (D {approx} 109m2/s) can occur. Moreover, if the wave amplitude is sufficiently large (Bwave/B0 > 0.2) stochastic particle transport also occurs. This wave-induced transport can lead to significant heating and particle entry into the low latitude boundary layer across closed field lines.At the magnetopause, large amplitude, low-frequency (ULF), transverse MHD waves are nearly always observed. These waves likely result from mode conversion of compressional MHD waves observed in the magnetosheath to kinetic Alfven waves at the magnetopause where there is a steep gradient in the Alfven velocity [Johnson and Cheng, Geophys. Res. Lett. ...
Date: May 31, 2002
Creator: Johnson, Jay R. & Cheng, C.Z.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department