Structure of the magnetotail at 220 RE and its response to geomagnetic activity

E. W. Hones, D. N. Baker, S. J. Bame, W. C. Feldman, J. T. Gosling, D. J. McComas, R. D. Zwickl, J. A. Slavin, E. J. Smith, B. T. Tsurutani

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Using plasma electron and magnetic field measurements from ISEE 3, 220 RE from earth, we find that the magnetotail at that distance is a coherent structure that evidently waves about through distances comparable to its own lateral scale size. For about one‐third of the time it was inside the magnetotail, ISEE 3 was in the plasma sheet. During quiet times the plasma sheet is apparently quite thin, but in response to geomagnetic activity it expands, becoming filled with hot plasma flowing tailward at speeds sometimes exceeding 1000 km/sec, and forces the magnetotail cross‐section itself to expand. The plasma sheet’s expansion is delayed typically by about 30 minutes from the onset of the associated geomagnetic activity (often a clearly identified isolated substorm). The magnetic field in the newly‐expanded plasma sheet usually exhibits a few‐minute steep northward excursion followed by a more prolonged (and often steep) southward excursion. We believe these to be the signatures of arrival of a plasmoid formed and released near the earth at the onset of the corresponding geomagnetic activity. The discreteness of these plasma releases through the magnetotail and their close association with onsets of geomagnetic activity at earth suggest that they are consequences of spontaneous release, probably by magnetic reconnection, of energy and plasma earlier stored in the magnetotail. This paper is not subject to U.S. copyright. Published in 1984 by the American Geophysical Union.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-7
Number of pages3
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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