Observations of double discontinuities in the magnetotail

Y. C. Whang, D. Fairfield, E. J. Smith, R. P. Lepping, S. Kokubun, and Y. Saito

Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. 20064


Observations of slow shocks in the Earth's magnetotail at the plasma sheet-lobe boundaries have been well documented. We restudy the magnetic field data of two slow shocks: one was observed from Geotail on January 17, 1994 at XGSE = -92 RE, and another was observed from ISEE-3 on February 2, 1983 at XGSE = -220 RE. In both cases, the slow shock layer was followed by an adjoining rotational discontinuity layer on the postshock side. Compound structures each composed of a slow shock layer and an adjoining rotational discontinuity layer have been recently observed in interplanetary space from Wind, GEOTAIL and IMP-8. Because the two successive discontinuities are very close to each other, the compound structure looks like a new kind of MHD discontinuity. It may be called a double discontinuity. Since double discontinuities exist not only in interplanetary space but also in the magnetotail region, they could be a general MHD structure in space plasma.

Geophys. Res. Lett., 24, 3153, 1997