Joint Observations of Energy Transport and Dissipation during Plasma Flow Vortex in the Terrestrial Magnetotail

Wei Wang, Yuduan Ma*, Malcolm W. Dunlop, Tianran Sun, I. J. Rae, Xinhua Wei, Junying Yang, Youjun Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

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Plasma flow vorticity is ubiquitous in space and plays a key role in material mixing and energy transfer. The five THEMIS satellites orbiting in different regions of the terrestrial magnetotail provide an unprecedented opportunity to study the temporal–spatial evolution characteristics of a plasma flow vortex on large spatial scales. We present an analysis of the flow vorticity that occurred between 05:50 and 06:30 UT on 2009 March 23 during a quiet time of the terrestrial magnetotail. The uneven distributions of the density and temperature of the vortex observed by the three near-Earth satellites (THA, THD, and THE) indicate that the plasma in the solar wind gradually mixed into the near-Earth magnetotail through a series of nonequilibrium processes. Both the flow vortices and dipolarization observed by the three near-Earth satellites were about 10 minutes earlier than those observed by the two satellites (THB and THC) in the mid-magnetotail. Further analysis of the relationship between vorticity, field-aligned current, and energy transport reveals that the flow vortex interacted with the surrounding plasma during its tailward propagation. The field-aligned current related to the vorticity could only generate a pseudo-breakup of the aurora in the ionosphere. Thus, we speculate that this flow vortex mainly transports mass and energy from the solar wind to the near-magnetotail, propagates tailward to the mid-magnetotail, and heats the encountered plasma by dissipating its bulk flow and dominant thermal energy. These results shed light on the mass mixing, energy transport, and dissipation of the plasma flow vortex during quiet levels of geomagnetic activity on large spatial scales.
Original languageEnglish
Article number166
Number of pages11
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2024

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