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MMS Observations of Super Thin Electron-Scale Current Sheets in the Earth's Magnetotail
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  • Makar Leonenko,
  • Elena E. Grigorenko,
  • Lev M. Zelenyi,
  • Helmi V. Malova,
  • Andrey Yu. Malykhin,
  • Victor Yu. Popov,
  • Joerg Buechner
Makar Leonenko
Space Research Institute
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Elena E. Grigorenko
Space Research Institute of RAS

Corresponding Author:elenagrigorenko2003@yandex.ru

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Lev M. Zelenyi
Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS)
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Helmi V. Malova
Nuclear Physics Institute of Moscow State University
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Andrey Yu. Malykhin
Space Research Institute of RAS
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Victor Yu. Popov
Moscow State University
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Joerg Buechner
Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung
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Strong flapping of the Current Sheet (CS) associated with the propagation of high-velocity bulk flows allowed to observe the Super Thin Current Sheet (STCS) in the magnetotail Plasma Sheet (PS). During the interval of interest 111 crossings of the CS neutral line were detected. In 95 crossings the STCSs with a current density J ≥ 20 nA/m2 were observed. A half-thickness (LSTCS) of the STCSs was about a few electron gyroradii or less. In a number of the STCSs the parameter of adiabaticity (κe) was < 1.0 for suprathermal electron population (> 1 keV). Our analysis has shown that the electric current in such STCSs is carried by unmagnetized electrons (κe < 1), and the pressure balance is supported by the off-diagonal terms of their pressure tensor. In this sense the underlying physics of the formation of STCSs at electron scales by unmagnetized electrons is similar to the mechanism of ion-scale thin CS formation by the quasi-adiabatic ions. The low-energy population of magnetized electrons is also crucially important since it keeps the STCS stable and allows their observation as a quasi-stationary structure.
We compare the observed half-thickness of the STCS with that predicted by a new kinetic theory (λ) considering the coupling between ion-scale TCS and electron-scale STCS. We found a reasonable agreement between both values: LSTCS ~ (0.3 – 1)λ. Further improvement in the theory taking into account the dynamics of unmagnetized electrons may provide better agreement with observations.
Nov 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics volume 126 issue 11. 10.1029/2021JA029641