Evidence for Flux Ropes in the Earth's Magnetotail

  1. C. T. Russell,
  2. E. R. Priest and
  3. L. C. Lee
  1. David G. Sibeck

Published Online: 21 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM058p0637

Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes

Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes

How to Cite

Sibeck, D. G. (1990) Evidence for Flux Ropes in the Earth's Magnetotail, in Physics of Magnetic Flux Ropes (eds C. T. Russell, E. R. Priest and L. C. Lee), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM058p0637

Author Information

  1. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD 20707

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1990

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900261

Online ISBN: 9781118663868



  • Solar photosphere;
  • Magnetic flux;
  • Astrophysics


Magnetic field reconnection is a fundamental process that occurs in the magnetotail during geomagnetic substorms. Some two-dimensional reconnection models predict the formation of a plasmoid, or closed loop of magnetic field lines, in the noon-midnight meridional plane at those times. When the three-dimensional magnetotail magnetic field is considered, it becomes clear that reconnection produces a flux rope with an axis transverse to the earth-sun line. Three signatures mark both two-dimensional plasmoids and three-dimensional flux ropes: (1) a bipolar magnetic field signature, (2) tailward flow of a hot plasma, and (3) convecting isotropic energetic particle distributions. Plasmoids and flux ropes may be distinguished by (4) the axial magnetic field that only flux ropes possess. All four signatures have been identified in near-earth (X > −60 RE), middle (−60 > X > −120 RE), and distant (−120 RE > X > −240 RE) magnetotail observations, but their interpretation is disputed. Thus, the existence of magnetotail flux ropes remains a controversial subject.