Evaluating Single-Spacecraft Observations of Planetary Magnetotails With Simple Monte Carlo Simulations: 1. Spatial Distributions of the Neutral Line

A. W. Smith*, C. M. Jackman, C. M. Frohmaier, J. C. Coxon, J. A. Slavin, R. C. Fear

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A simple Monte Carlo model is presented that considers the effects of spacecraft orbital sampling on the inferred distribution of magnetic flux ropes, generated through magnetic reconnection in the magnetotail current sheet. When generalized, the model allows the determination of the number of orbits required to constrain the underlying population of structures: It is able to quantify this as a function of the physical parameters of the structures (e.g., azimuthal extent and probability of generation). The model is shown adapted to the Hermean magnetotail, where the outputs are compared to the results of a recent survey. This comparison suggests that the center of Mercury's neutral line is located dawnward of midnight by 0.37+1.21 −1.02 RM and that the flux ropes are most likely to be wide azimuthally (∼50% of the width of the Hermean tail). The downtail location of the neutral line is not self-consistent or in agreement with previous (independent) studies unless dissipation terms are included planetward of the reconnection site; potential physical explanations are discussed. In the future the model could be adapted to other environments, for example, the dayside magnetopause or other planetary magnetotails.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10109-10123
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Volume123
Issue number12
Early online date22 Dec 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

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