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Journal Articles Surveys in Geophysics Year : 2005

Cluster Observations of the CUSP: Magnetic Structure and Dynamics

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M. W. Dunlop
  • Function : Author
B. Lavraud
P. Cargill
  • Function : Author
M. G. G. T. Taylor
  • Function : Author
A. Balogh
  • Function : Author
H. Réme
  • Function : Author
K. -H. Glassmeier
  • Function : Author
R. C. Elphic
  • Function : Author
J. -M. Bosqued
  • Function : Author
A. N. Fazakerley
  • Function : Author
I. Dandouras
  • Function : Author
C. P. Escoubet
  • Function : Author
H. Laakso
  • Function : Author
A. Marchaudon
  • Function : Author


This paper reviews Cluster observations of the high altitude and exterior (outer) cusp, and adjacent regions in terms of new multi-spacecraft analysis and the geometry of the surrounding boundary layers. Several crossings are described in terms of the regions sampled, the boundary dynamics and the electric current signatures observed. A companion paper in this issue focuses on the detailed plasma distributions of the boundary layers. The polar Cluster orbits take the four spacecraft in a changing formation out of the magnetosphere, on the northern leg, and into the magnetosphere, on the southern leg, of the orbits. During February to April the orbits are centred on a few hours of local noon and, on the northern leg, generally pass consecutively through the northern lobe and the cusp at mid- to high-altitudes. Depending upon conditions, the spacecraft often sample the outer cusp region, near the magnetopause, and the dayside and tail boundary layer regions adjacent to the central cusp. On the southern, inbound leg the sequence is reversed. Cluster has therefore sampled the boundaries around the high altitude cusp and nearby magnetopause under a variety of conditions. The instruments onboard provide unprecedented resolution of the plasma and field properties of the region, and the simultaneous, four-spacecraft coverage achieved by Cluster is unique. The spacecraft array forms a nearly regular tetrahedral configuration in the cusp and already the mission has covered this region on multiple spatial scales (100 2000 km). This multi-spacecraft coverage allows spatial and temporal features to be distinguished to a large degree and, in particular, enables the macroscopic properties of the boundary layers to be identified: the orientation, motion and thickness, and the associated current layers. We review the results of this analysis for a number of selected crossings from both the North and South cusp regions. Several key results have been found or have confirmed earlier work: (1) evidence for magnetically defined boundaries at both the outer cusp/magnetosheath interface and the␣inner cusp/lobe or cusp/dayside magnetosphere interface, as would support the existence of a distinct exterior cusp region; (2) evidence for an associated indentation region on the magnetopause across the outer cusp; (3) well defined plasma boundaries at the edges of the mid- to high-altitude cusp “throat”, and well defined magnetic boundaries in the high-altitude “throat”, consistent with a funnel geometry; (4) direct control of the cusp position, and its extent, by the IMF, both in the dawn/dusk and North/South directions. The exterior cusp, in particular, is highly dependent on the external conditions prevailing. The magnetic field geometry is sometimes complex, but often the current layer has a well defined thickness ranging from a few hundred (for the inner cusp boundaries) to 1000 km. Motion of the inner cusp boundaries can occur at speeds up to 60 km/s, but typically 10 20 km/s. These speeds appear to represent global motion of the cusp in some cases, but also could arise from expansion or narrowing in others. The mid- to high-altitude cusp usually contains enhanced ULF wave activity, and the exterior cusp usually is associated with a substantial reduction in field magnitude.

Dates and versions

insu-03611258 , version 1 (17-03-2022)



M. W. Dunlop, B. Lavraud, P. Cargill, M. G. G. T. Taylor, A. Balogh, et al.. Cluster Observations of the CUSP: Magnetic Structure and Dynamics. Surveys in Geophysics, 2005, 26, pp.5-55. ⟨10.1007/s10712-005-1871-7⟩. ⟨insu-03611258⟩
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