Reconnection at the Earth's Magnetopause: Magnetic Field Observations and Flux Transfer Events

  1. Edward W. Hones Jr.
  1. C. T. Russell

Published Online: 19 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM030p0124

Magnetic Reconnection in Space and Laboratory Plasmas

Magnetic Reconnection in Space and Laboratory Plasmas

How to Cite

Russell, C. T. (1984) Reconnection at the Earth's Magnetopause: Magnetic Field Observations and Flux Transfer Events, in Magnetic Reconnection in Space and Laboratory Plasmas (ed E. W. Hones), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM030p0124

Author Information

  1. Department of Earth and Space Sciences And Institute Of Geophysics And Planetary Physics, University Of California, Los Angeles, California 90024

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 19 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1984

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900582

Online ISBN: 9781118664223

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Keywords:

  • Earth's magnetopause;
  • Electric field;
  • Electron polarization;
  • Flux transfer events (FTEs);
  • Interplanetary magnetic field (IMF)

Summary

The concept of the magnetopause is over 50 years old and the first observation over 20 years old but there is still much to learn about this boundary. It was clear to some that the earliest observations of the magnetosphere demanded the reconnection of the interplanetary magnetic field with the terrestrial magnetic field across the dayside magnetopause, but early observations of the structure of the dayside magnetopause were unable to prove that this mechanism did, in fact, accelerate plasma as proposed. It was not until the advent of the ISEE-1 and -2 measurements beginning in 1977 that the three-dimensional high resolution plasma measurements were available to demonstrate that the magnetopause responded to southward interplanetary magnetic fields as predicted. Nevertheless, the ISEE measurements had their surprises. They revealed that reconnection was seldom a steady state process. Rather, the magnetopause was often subjected to patchy reconnection producing a feature called the flux transfer event. Flux transfer events are tubes of twisted magnetic field about 1 Re across, connecting the magnetosheath to the magnetosphere. Their transport to the tail transfers enough magnetic flux to be significant for magnetospheric dynamics. Despite all this progress, we still do not understand why we sometimes observe flux transfer events and sometimes steady-state reconnection. Nor do we know where reconnection is first initiated. There is still much to be learned about the reconnecting magnetopause.