A statistical survey of the central plasma sheet


  • C. Y. Huang,

  • L. A. Frank


We present a statistical analysis of the ion plasma properties and magnetic field of the central plasma sheet at distances from 10 to 23 RE from the Earth. This study incorporates ISEE 1 plasma sheet samples accumulated with the University of Iowa Lepedea plasma analyzer during 1979. Our study of the bulk properties of the ion plasma shows that there is relatively little change as a result of increasing geomagnetic activity. The main macroscopic effect is an increase in plasma temperature. When the transverse profile of the plasma sheet is examined, it is clear that this increase in temperature occurs preferentially at high latitudes. The magnetic field shows an increase in magnitude in the vicinity of the neutral sheet during periods of high geomagnetic activity. The radial profiles of the density, temperature, plasma, and magnetic pressures show a gradient in total energy density in the plasma sheet. The convective velocities are systematically directed earthward, and there is a bias toward positive Vy on the duskside of the magnetotail. We infer that particle motion can be attributed to a pressure gradient, combined with steady state convective electric fields. We compute the convective electric fields from our measured bulk velocities, arriving at a pattern similar to that observed at low altitudes. The cross-tail electric field Ey is dominant near the neutral sheet region, but at high latitudes Ez is a major component. Our results suggest that the plasma sheet boundary layer, rather than the central plasma sheet, is a region of diverging electric fields. The picture of the plasma sheet that emerges from our study is that of a stable reservoir of hot plasma in which thermodynamic, rather than dynamic, processes is important.