Embedded current sheets in the Earth's magnetotail
Publication date: 28 Jan 2011
Authors: Petrukovich, A.A., et al.
Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research
Copyright: American Geophysical UnionIn this investigation we introduce and discuss quantitative parameters of a thin current sheet embedded in the background plasma sheet. We use Cluster statistics and empirical models, as well as self-consistent simulations, to understand the formation and development of embedded current sheets, in particular in the course of substorms. Data and theory show that the embedded sheet thickness is of the order of a proton larmor radius, a constraint equivalent to magnetic flux conservation. The embedded sheet can be essentially described by two dimensionless parameters B0/Bext and F0/Fext. B0 is the magnetic field at the embedded sheet boundary, Bext is the field at the boundary of the background plasma sheet, and F0 and Fext are magnetic flux values. During the growth phase current density in embedded sheet and B0 increase, while thickness decreases. Sheets with the most intense currents (large B0) are observed after onset. The self-consistent anisotropic sheet model, including both electron and proton currents and combined with the Harris-type background shows that when the proton-scale embedded sheet becomes sufficiently thin, an electron-scale current sheet can appear inside it due to enhanced electron curvature drift.