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Bipolar electrostatic structures in the shock transition region: Evidence of electron phase space holes

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Abstract

We present observations of intense, bipolar, electrostatic structures in the transition region of the terrestrial bow shock from the Wind spacecraft. The electric field signatures are on the order of a tenth of a millisecond in duration and greater than 100 mV/m in amplitude. The measured electric field is generally larger on the smaller dipole antenna, indicating a small spatial size. We compare the potential on the two dipole antennas with a model of antenna response to a Gaussian potential profile. This result agrees with a spatial scale determined by convection and gives a characteristic scale size of 2–7 λd. We interpret the observations as small scale convecting unipolar potential structures, consistent with simulations of electron phase space holes and discuss the results in the context of electron thermalization at strong collisionless shocks.

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