Longitudinal association between magnetotail reconnection and auroral breakup based on Geotail and Polar observations

A. Ieda, D. H. Fairfield, J. A. Slavin, K. Liou, C. I. Meng, S. Machida, Y. Miyashita, T. Mukai, Y. Saito, M. Nosé, J. H. Shue, G. K. Parks, M. O. Fillingim

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The dawn-dusk locations of reconnection in the near-earth magnetotail at the time of isolated auroral breakup are studied to clarify whether breakup is always accompanied by reconnection. The near-earth reconnection is identified by tailward plasma flows faster than 200 km/s with southward magnetic field. We first identified 66 breakups in the Polar ultraviolet imager observations of the nightside polar ionosphere. We then studied tailward flows during breakups using Geotail in situ observations of the plasma sheet between 25 and 31 R E down the tail. It was found that the dawn-dusk (Y) locations of relatively fast (≥400 km/s) tailward flows were associated with breakup magnetic local time (MLT) by a regression line of YAGSM = -5.7 × (MLT + 0.6) RE with a correlation coefficient of 0.8. Most tailward flows were observed within 5 RE of the modeled Y locations, where tailward flows occurred in 88% of the 26 cases of breakups between 22 and 0 MLT. It is thus inferred that in most cases, breakup is accompanied by tailward flow near the breakup MLT with its dawn-dusk dimension ∼10 R E. There were only two events without tailward flows in the region where flows have been expected. These two events were an earthward flow event and a traveling compression region event, which are not inconsistent with the initiation of the near-earth reconnection. Auroral breakup is thus likely to always be accompanied by near-earth reconnection near breakup MLT. It is also inferred that reconnection and breakup occur simultaneously within a few minutes, assuming a time delay between reconnection onset and the arrival of tailward flows at satellite locations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA08207
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2008


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