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Particle signatures of magnetic topology at the magnetopause: AMPTE/CCE observationsElectron distributions at energies above 50 eV have been found to be a sensitive indicator of magnetic topology for magnetopause crossings of the AMPTE/CCE spacecraft. Progressing from the magnetosheath to the magnetosphere two abrupt transitions occur. First, the magnetosheath electron population directed either parallel or antiparallel to the magnetic field is replaced by a streaming, heated magnetosheath electron population. The other half of the distribution is unchanged. The region with unidirectional, heated magnetosheath electrons is identified as the magnetosheath boundary layer (MSBL). Second, the unheated magnetosheath electron population is replaced by a heated population nearly identical to the population encountered in the MSBL, resulting in a symmetric counterstreaming distribution. The region populated by the bidirectional heated magnetosheath electrons is identified as the low-latitude boundary layer (LLBL). The MSBL and LLBL identified by the electron transitions are the same as the regions identified using ion composition measurements. The magnetosheath-MSBL transition reflects a change in magnetic topology from a solar wind field line to one that threads the magnetopause, and the existence of a magnetosheath-MSBL transition implies that the magnetopause is open. When the current layer is easily identified, the MSBL-LLBL transition coincides with the magnetopause current layer, indicating that the magnetosheath electrons are heated in the current layer. Both magnetosheath-MSBL and MSBL-LLBL transitions are observed for low as well as high magnetic shears. Moreover, the transitions are particularly clear for low shear implying that magnetic topology boundaries are sharp even when abrupt changes in the field and other plasma parameters are absent. Furthermore, for low magnetic shear, solar wind ions with low parallel drift speeds make up the majority of the LLBL population indicating that the magnetosheath plasma has convected directly across the magnetosheath plasma has converted directly across the magnetopause. These observations are consistent with quasi-steady, high-latitude reconnection and indicate that the signatures of this reconnection geometry are commonly present in the subpolar region.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Fuselier, S. A. (Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory, Palo Alto, CA United States)
Anderson, B. J. (Johns Hopkins University Laurel, MD, United States)
Onsager, T. G. (University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH United States)
Date Acquired
August 17, 2013
Publication Date
July 1, 1995
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Geophysical Research
Volume: 100
Issue: A7
ISSN: 0148-0227
Subject Category
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits