Multispacecraft observations of sudden impulses in the magnetotail caused by solar wind pressure discontinuities: Wind and IMP 8

M. R. Collier, J. A. Slavin, R. P. Lepping, K. Ogilvie, A. Szabo, H. Laakso, S. Taguchi

Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771


Two upstream solar wind pressure discontinuities that were associated with storm sudden commencements have been examined to determine their effect on the geomagnetic tail lobe field. During the two events, occurring on March 8. 1995, and August 17, 1995, the Wind spacecraft was located in the upstream region monitoring the solar wind, and the IMP 8 spacecraft was in the geomagnetic tail lobe observing the tail response. The two events occurred during periods with northward or weak southward interplanetary magnetic field. In each case, the data suggest that the magnetic field in the tail lobe increased in magnitude directly in response to the external solar wind pressure increase. It is shown that a simple model in which a uniform magnetic field is compressed by a step function constriction accurately predicts characteristic timescales, which are of the order of a couple minutes, and the magnetic field profiles. The inferred flaring angles are consistent with model predictions, and the changes in the flaring angle across the discontinuities correspond to expectations based on changes in the subsolar magnetopause position and tail width. Overall, the results of this study indicate that the magnetotail maintains an approximate MHD equilibrium even as it responds rapidly to interplanetary pressure discontinuities.

J. Geophys. Res., 103, 17,293-17,305, 1998