Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics

How wide in magnetic local time is the cusp? An event study


  • N. C. Maynard,

  • E. J. Weber,

  • D. R. Weimer,

  • J. Moen,

  • T. Onsager,

  • R. A. Heelis,

  • A. Egeland


A unique pass of the DMSP F11 satellite, longitudinally cutting through the cusp and mantle, combined with simultaneous optical measurements of the dayside cusp from Svalbard has been used to determine the width in local time of the cusp. We have shown from this event study that the cusp was at least 3.7 hours wide in magnetic local time. These measurements provide a lower limit for the cusp width. The observed cusp optical emissions are relatively constant, considering the processes which lead to the 630.0 nm emissions, and require precipitating electron flux to be added each minute during the DMSP pass throughout the local time extent observed by the imaging photometer and probably over the whole extent of the cusp defined by DMSP data. We conclude that the electron fluxes which produce the cusp aurora are from a process which must have been operable sometime during each minute but could have had both temporal and spatial variations. The measured width along with models of cusp precipitation provide the rationale to conclude that the region of flux tube opening in the dayside merging process involves the whole frontside magnetopause and can extend beyond the dawn-dusk terminator. The merging process for this event was found to be continuous, although spatially and temporally variable.