• Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations Of Plasma Dynamics In The Magnetospheric Cusp Region

      Adamson, Eric T.; Otto, Antonius (2012)
      The Earth's magnetospheric cusp regions are rich in interesting plasma physics. The geomagnetic cusps offer solar wind plasma a relatively easy entry point into the magnetosphere through magnetic reconnection with the interplanetary magnetic field. The cusp regions are characterized by various interesting and important observations such as low energy particle precipitation, significant outflow of ionospheric material, and the frequent presence of energetic particles in regions of depressed magnetic field strength. The physical mechanisms that lead to these observations is often unresolved, for instance the acceleration mechanism for energetic cusp populations is not understood, nor is it known what implications they may have on magnetospheric dynamics. It is however, well accepted that magnetic reconnection plays a critical role in the vicinity of the cusps and is likely responsible for much of the dynamics in the region. Modeling of the geomagnetic cusps is notoriously challenging. Global magnetospheric models have proven indispensable in the study of the interaction of the solar wind plasma with the Earth's magnetosphere, however, the exterior cusp region poses a significant challenge for these models due to their relatively small scale. I have developed a mesoscale cusp-like magnetic field model in order to provide a better resolution (up to 300 km) of the entire cusp region than is possible in these global models. Typical observational features of the high-altitude cusps are well reproduced by the simulation. Results for both strongly northward and strongly southward interplanetary magnetic field indicate extended regions of depressed magnetic field and strongly enhanced plasma beta (cusp diamagnetic cavities). The Alfvenic nature of the outer boundary between the cusp and magnetosheath, in addition to the flow characteristics in the region, indicate that magnetic reconnection plays an important role in structuring the high-altitude cusp region. The inner boundaries with magnetosphere are gradual transitions forming a clear funnel. These cavities further present a unique configuration in which reconnecting magnetic flux tubes may gain a significant amount of flux tube entropy (H = p1/gammaV) through topological changes due to magnetic reconnection.