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Temporal evolution of a staircase ion signature observed by Cluster in the mid-altitude polar cusp

Abstract : We use the Cluster string of pearls configuration to investigate temporal variations of ion precipitation in the mid-altitude polar cusp. On 7 Aug. 2004, Cluster 4 was moving poleward through the Northern cusp, followed by Cluster 1, Cluster 2, and finally Cluster 3. The Wind spacecraft detected a Southward turning of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF) at the beginning of the cusp crossings and IMF-Bz stayed negative throughout. Cluster 4 observed a high energy step in the ion dispersion around 1 keV on the equatorward side of the cusp. C1, entering the cusp around 1 minute later, did not observe the high energy step anymore but a partial dispersion with a low energy cut-off reaching 100 eV. About 9 min later, C3 entered the cusp and observed a full ion dispersion from a few keV down to around 50 eV. The open-closed boundary, identified by electron precipitation, was initially moving equatorward at a rate of −0.43° ILAT/minute at the beginning of the event and then slowed down to −0.16° ILAT/minute, suggesting the erosion of the dayside magnetosphere under IMF Southward. This event is explained by the onset of dayside reconnection when the IMF turned southward; the step being the first signature of the reconnection that would then evolve as a full dispersion as reconnection goes on. We observed 1–3 keV ions near the open-closed boundary on the three spacecraft crossings that suggests a continuous reconnection during about 9 minutes.
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Contributor : Béatrice Pibaret-Bourdon <>
Submitted on : Thursday, January 29, 2009 - 4:46:09 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 3:11:41 AM

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P. Escoubet, Jean-Michel Bosqued, J. Berchem, K. J. Trattner, M. G. Taylor, et al.. Temporal evolution of a staircase ion signature observed by Cluster in the mid-altitude polar cusp. Geophysical Research Letters, American Geophysical Union, 2006, 33 (7), pp.L07108. ⟨10.1029/2005GL025598⟩. ⟨insu-00357178⟩



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