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National Space Weather Initiative: Nov.3-11, 1993

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MPA Observations


Mass Flow through the Magnetosphere during the November-1993 Storm

Three aspects of mass flow into, within, and out of the earth's magnetosphere are glimpsed by using multi-satellite measurements taken during the November-1993 storm within the magnetosphere at geosynchronous and GPS orbit and within the magnetosheath downtail. The first aspect of mass flow is the entry of solar-wind material into and through the magnetosphere via the plasma sheet. A high-density front of solar-wind material is observed to pass the earth prior to the onset of the storm. Four hours after it passes the distant tail, during the enhanced but still modest activity leading up to the storm, the high-density front appears in the near-earth plasma sheet near midnight. Subsequently, during the early phase of the storm, the high-density front convects around the dusk side of the dipolar magnetosphere to the dayside in a matter of about 8 hours. The second aspect of mass flow is the drainage of plasmaspheric material from the magnetosphere. When geomagnetic activity commences near the beginning of the storm, the material of the outer plasmasphere is observed to be convecting sunward toward the dayside magnetopause. During a crossing of the magnetopause by a geosynchronous satellite on the dayside, plasmaspheric ions are seen right up to the magnetopause, where they form fast flows. After the plasmaspheric field lines are opened, the plasmaspheric material is probably transported via the lobes into the magnetotail, wherein it may contribute to the anomalously high-density plasma sheet that is seen shortly after the activity commences. The third aspect of mass flow is the movement of electrons through energy space from plasma-sheet thermal energies to relativistic energies. The fluxes of thermal electrons in the magnetosphere are enhanced at the onset of storm activity and decay thereafter, the fluxes of medium-energy electrons peak a day after onset, and the fluxes of relativistic electrons peak a few days after the storm onset.

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