Local time extent of magnetopause reconnection using space-ground coordination
Walsh, Brian M.
Ruohoniemi, J. Michael
McWilliams, Kathryn A.
MetadataShow full item record
Magnetic reconnection can vary considerably in spatial extent. At the Earth's magnetopause, the extent generally corresponds to the extent in local time. The extent has been probed by multiple spacecraft crossing the magnetopause, but the estimates have large uncertainties because of the assumption of spatially continuous reconnection activity between spacecraft and the lack of information beyond areas of spacecraft coverage. The limitations can be overcome by using radars examining ionospheric flows moving anti-sunward across the open-closed field line boundary. We therefore infer the extents of reconnection using coordinated observations of multiple spacecraft and radars for three conjunction events. We find that when reconnection jets occur at only one spacecraft, only the ionosphere conjugate to this spacecraft shows a channel of fast anti-sunward flow. When reconnection jets occur at two spacecraft and the spacecraft are separated by < 1 Re, the ionosphere conjugate to both spacecraft shows a channel of fast anti-sunward flow. The consistency allows us to determine the reconnection jet extent by measuring the ionospheric flows. The full-width-at-half-maximum flow extent is 200, 432, and 1320 km, corresponding to a reconnection jet extent of 2, 4, and 11 Re. Considering that reconnection jets emanate from reconnections with a high reconnection rate, the result indicates that both spatially patchy (a few Re) and spatially continuous and extended reconnections (> 10 Re) are possible forms of active reconnection at the magnetopause. Interestingly, the extended reconnection develops from a localized patch via spreading across local time. Potential effects of IMF B-x and B-y on the reconnection extent are discussed.