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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-2018-63
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Regular paper 03 Jul 2018

Regular paper | 03 Jul 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Annales Geophysicae (ANGEO).

Local time extent of magnetopause reconnection X-lines using space–ground coordination

Ying Zou1,2, Brian M. Walsh3, Yukitoshi Nishimura4,5, Vassilis Angelopoulos6, J. Michael Ruohoniemi7, Kathryn A. McWilliams8, and Nozomu Nishitani9 Ying Zou et al.
  • 1Department of Astronomy and Center for Space Physics, Boston University, Massachusetts, USA
  • 2Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado , USA
  • 3Department of Mechanical Engineering and Center for Space Physics, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • 4Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Center for Space Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  • 5Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • 6Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • 7The Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
  • 8Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 9Center for International Collaborative Research, Institute for Space-Earth Environmental Research, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan

Abstract. Magnetic reconnection X-lines can vary considerably in length. At the Earth's magnetopause, the length generally corresponds to the extent in local time. The extent has been probed by multi-spacecraft crossing the magnetopause, but the estimates have large uncertainties because of the assumption of a continuous X-line between spacecraft and the lack of information beyond areas of spacecraft coverage. The extent has also been inferred by radars as fast ionospheric flows moving anti-sunward across the open-closed field line boundary, but whether a particular ionospheric flow results from reconnection needs to be confirmed. To achieve a reliable interpretation, we compare X-line extents probed by multi-spacecraft and radars for three conjunction events. We find that when reconnection is active at only one spacecraft, only the ionosphere conjugate to this spacecraft shows a channel of fast anti-sunward flow. When reconnection is active at two spacecraft and the spacecraft are separated by <1Re, the ionosphere conjugate to both spacecraft shows a channel of fast anti-sunward flow. The consistency allows us to determine the X-line extent by measuring the ionospheric flows. The flow extent is 520, 572, and 1260km, corresponding to an X-line extent of 4, 5, and 11Re. This strongly indicates that both spatially patchy (a few Re) and spatially continuous and extended reconnection (>10Re) are possible forms of reconnection at the magnetopause. Interestingly, the extended reconnection develops from a localized patch via spreading across local time. Potential effects of IMF Bx and By on the X-line extent are discussed.

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Short summary
Magnetopause reconnection is a process where the Sun explosively transfers energy to the Earth. Whether the process is spatially patchy, or spatially continuous and extended has been under long debate. We use space–ground coordination to overcome the limitations of previous studies to reliably interpret the spatial extent. Our result strongly indicates that both patchy and extended reconnection are possible, and interestingly, the extended reconnection grows from a localized patch via spreading.
Magnetopause reconnection is a process where the Sun explosively transfers energy to the Earth....
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