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Electron cross talk and asymmetric electron distributions near the Earth's bowshock

By J. J. Mitchell, S. J. Schwartz and U. Auster


Electron distributions in the magnetosheath display a number of far from equilibrium features. It has been suggested that one factor influencing these distributions may be the large distances separating locations at which electrons with different energies and pitch angles must cross the bowshock in order to reach a given point in the magnetosheath. The overall heating requirements at these distant locations depends strongly on the shock geometry. In the absence of collisions or other isotropization processes this suggests that the convolution of electrons arriving from different locations should give rise to asymmetries in the distribution functions. Moreover, such cross-talk could influence the relative electron to ion heating, rendering the shock heating problem intrinsically non-local in contrast to classic shock physics. Here, we study electron distributions measured simultaneously by the Plasma Electron and Current Experiment (PEACE) on board the Cluster spacecraft and the Electrostatic Analyser (ESA) on board THEMIS b during a time interval in which both the Cluster spacecraft and THEMIS b are in the magnetosheath, close to the bowshock, and during which the local magnetic field orientation makes it likely that electron trajectories may connect both spacecraft. We find that the relevant portions of the velocity distributions of such electrons measured by each spacecraft display remarkable similarities. We map trajectories of electrons arriving at each spacecraft back to the locations at which they crossed the bowshock, as a function of pitch angle and energy. We then use the Rankine-Hugoniot relations to estimate the heating of electrons and compare this with temperature asymmetries actually observed. We conclude that the electron distributions and temperatures in the magnetosheath depend heavily on non-local shock properties

Topics: Geophysics. Cosmic physics, QC801-809, Physics, QC1-999, Science, Q, DOAJ:Geophysics and Geomagnetism, DOAJ:Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Copernicus Publications
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.5194/angeo-30-503-2012
OAI identifier:
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