Kink-mode oscillations of the magnetotail current sheet driven by quasi-continuous reconnection during a steady magnetospheric convection: Geotail and THEMIS conjunction
Thursday, 17 December 2015: 16:57
2018 (Moscone West)
We present in situ evidence for MHD-scale kink-mode waves propagating earthward in the Earth’s magnetotail. The event occurred on 11 October 2014 when the Geotail spacecraft, situated at the GSM position (–26, 9, 0) Re, observed earthward reconnection jets almost continuously for a few hours under stably southward interplanetary magnetic field conditions. The reconnection jets had a speed of ~700 km/s, comparable to the lobe Alfven speed, and concurred with quasi-periodic crossings of the tail current sheet with a period of 2-3 min. Two of the THEMIS spacecraft, located in the pre-midnight sector at X ~ –10 Re, observed no significant flows, and the cross-polar cap potential estimated from SuperDARN remained more than 50 kV and roughly constant, signatures expected for a steady magnetospheric convection (SMC) interval. The Grad-Shafranov reconstruction of the oscillatory current sheet indicates that kink-mode waves propagated roughly earthward, with a wavelength of ~15 Re and amplitude of order 1 Re. The ions observed off the center of the tail current sheet consisted of field-aligned ion beams and cold lobe ions, characteristic of the plasma sheet boundary layer, which led to parallel ion temperature being higher than the perpendicular temperature. We interpret the observed kink-mode waves as being due to the streaming kink instability (SKI) excited in the reconnection jet and in the presence of temperature anisotropy. Since the SKI can generate Alfvénic waves or turbulence, the observed field fluctuations may be an energy source for auroral activities during SMC intervals. Our observations show that the tail plasma sheet can be dynamic even under a globally steady magnetospheric condition.