MSSL Space Plasma Science Nuggets
Near-Earth Cosmic Ray Decreases Associated with Remote Coronal Mass Ejections
Publication date: 24 February 2015
Galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) are highly energetic, charged particles that originate from outside of the heliosphere. The flux of GCRs reaching us varies in response to the magnetic field in which the particles propagate. In time-scales of hours, GCR flux can be suppressed by coronal mass ejections (CMEs) due to the increased magnetic field strength and from scattering by turbulence within the magnetic field. The GCR flux incident on Earth is inferred by measuring neutrons at the surface which are generated when GCRs interact with atmospheric particles. Therefore, when a CME passes over Earth, neutron monitors give a sudden decrease of a number of percent which then recovers slowly as the CME passes out into the outer heliosphere. This change in the neutron monitor data is known as a “Forbush Decrease”.
Solar Ejecta through the Heliosphere
Publication date: 20 February 2015
The solar flare
that occurred on 7th June 2011 was not unusually bright, nor was it unexpected.
It was classified as a medium-sized event and its effects were barely felt back
here on Earth.
Origin of polar auroras revealed
Publication date: 18 February 2015
Auroras are the most visible manifestation of solar wind driven magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, but many aspects of these spectacular displays are still poorly understood. A paper by Fear et al. published in Science in December 2014 has answered a long standing question about what produces the unusual ‘theta aurora’. Theta aurora are so named because when seen from above it looks like the Greek letter theta – an oval with a line crossing through the centre. The unusual aspect is the ‘line through the centre’ due to aurorae occurring closer to the poles than the normal aurora, which are found about 65–70° degrees north or south of the equator in an area called the ‘auroral oval’ that is reasonably well understood by scientists.
Increases in plasma sheet temperature with solar wind driving during substorm growth phases
Publication date: 5 January 2015
Through its interaction with the solar wind, Earth's magnetosphere can store 1015 J of magnetic energy in its magnetotail. This energy is explosively released during magnetospheric substorms; events during which the stored magnetic energy is directed into the ionosphere to cause the aurora, heats in the plasma in the magnetotail and is ejected back into the solar wind behind the magnetosphere.
Inner magnetospheric onset preceding reconnection and tail dynamics during substorms: Can substorms initiate in two different regions?
Publication date: 19 December 2014
The explosive release of energy within a substorm marks the beginning of one of the most dynamic and vibrant auroral displays seen in the night-time skies. Stored magnetic energy is quickly converted to plasma kinetic energy, resulting in dramatic changes both in the large-scale magnetic topology of the Earth’s night-side magnetic field, and in energetic particles being accelerated towards Earth.
Waves in the ionosphere detected by ground GPS receiver network
Publication date: 18 December 2014
Ground networks of GPS receivers can be used to characterise ionospheric perturbations. As the dual frequency navigational GPS signal propagates through the ionosphere, due to dispersive properties of the ionised media it carries information about the total ionospheric electron content (TEC). With careful analysis, ionospheric perturbations due to various natural drivers can be detected. Ground networks of GPS receivers in Japan have been used to detect small ionospheric effects from propagating extra long ocean waves, those causing catastrophic tsunamis as they reach the shore. In Scandinavia and Canada, the effects from auroral activity and from magnetospheric plasma waves have been observed in GPS TEC measurements. Such effects can be of crucial importance for the precise GPS positioning but can be also utilised to monitor the Earth’s magnetosphere and in particular the radiation belts.
High-time-resolution observations of an FTE using Cluster
Publication date: 29 September 2014
We have presented the Cluster observations of a crater FTE on 12 February 2007, when the quartet was located in the low-latitude boundary layer, and widely separated on the magnetopause plane. The passage of the structure was sequentially observed by Cluster 2, 3, 4 and 1 respectively, analysed in detail. But what are flux transfer events, and why are they important within the magnetosphere?
New and improved analytic expressions for ULF wave radiation belt radial diffusion coefﬁcients
Publication date: 31 March 2014
Ozeke et al.  presented analytic expressions for ULF wave-derived radiation belt radial diffusion coefﬁcients, as a function of L and Kp, which can easily be incorporated into global radiation belt transport models. The diffusion coefﬁcients are derived from statistical representations of ULF wave power, electric ﬁeld power mapped from ground magnetometer data, and compressional magnetic ﬁeld power from in situ measurements.
Detailed azimuthal structure of the substorm current wedge
Publication date: 12 February 2014
During the most dynamic auroral displays, known as substorm, electrical current is diverted from the magnetosphere through the ionosphere. The passage of this current through the upper atmosphere causes the gas to glow giving us the aurora. Since the 1970s it has been thought that this diverted current forms a "substorm current wedge" with upwards current on the duskward side and downward current on the dawnward side.
Automated determination of auroral breakup during the substorm expansion phase using all-sky imager data
Publication date: 1 February 2014
The detailed spatial structure of ﬁeld-aligned currents comprising the substorm current wedge
Publication date: 1 December 2013
We present a comprehensive two-dimensional view of the ﬁeld-aligned currents (FACs) during the late growth and expansion phases for three isolated substorms utilizing in situ observations from the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment and from ground-based magnetometer and optical instrumentation from the Canadian Array for Realtime Investigations of Magnetic Activity and Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms ground-based arrays.
Discovery of the action of a geophysical synchrotron in the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts
Publication date: 1 November 2013
Although the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts were discovered over 50 years ago, the dominant processes responsible for relativistic electron acceleration, transport and loss remain poorly understood. Here we show evidence for the action of coherent acceleration due to resonance with ultra-low frequency waves on a planetary scale.
The influence of magnetospheric convection and magnetopause motion on Radiation Belt electrons
Publication date: 30 June 2013
Understanding the acceleration, transport and loss of relativistic electrons in Earth’s magnetosphere is a high-priority international science objective. Observations indicate that there are a vast number of effects to be considered in this region ranging from large-scale global effects to effects on the electron gyroscale and from the interaction of electrons with electromagnetic wave processes, to global changes in the Earth’s magnetosphere.
Poleward Boundary Intensifications and Bursty Bulk Flows do not coherently drive the substorm current wedge
Publication date: 1 June 2013
Rae et al.  published a comment on a recent Nishimura et al.  paper that hypothesized that individual flow bursts created the field-aligned currents (FACs) that form the substorm current wedge (SCW). In their comment, Rae et al.  systematically broke down the underpinning assumptions of the Nishimura paper.
Structure and variability of the auroral acceleration region
Publication date: 5 February 2013
Bright auroral arc appear when charged particles from the magnetosphere are accelerated into the upper atmosphere. Collisions between charged particles and neutrals excite the electrons in the neutral particles which then de-excite by emitting auroral light. Particles, in particular electrons, are accelerated out of the magnetosphere and into the atmosphere by magnetic-field-aligned electric potential drops in a region known as the auroral acceleration region (AAR). In a recent paper, Forsyth et al.  investigated the temporal variability and spatial structure in one such region.
What is the source of magnetotail flux-ropes?
Publication date: 12 December 2011
Travelling compression regions (TCRs) are perturbations in the magnetotail lobe magnetic field caused by structures moving Earthward or tailward within the plasma sheet. Previous works have suggested that these structures are created by either time-dependant reconnection occurring at a single X-line, forming a flux-bulge-type structure, or space-variant reconnection at multiple X-lines, forming flux-rope-type structures. By analysing a TCR and its source structure using the Cluster spacecraft, Beyene et al. (2011) have endeavoured to determine which of these mechanisms creates TCRs.
Particle Distributions in the Magnetotail
Publication date: 17 August 2011
Calculating currents from four spacecraft
Publication date: 1 May 2011
Ampere's law tells us that the curl of a magnetic field is proportional to current density. In order to measure the curl of a magnetic field in space, one needs to know approximate the variation of the magnetic field between four non-coplanar points. Such measurements are achieved by the Cluster quartet.
Discovery of the 'Travelling Magnetopause Erosion Region'
Publication date: 6 February 2009
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