Differentiating EDRs from the Background Magnetopause Current Sheet: A
The solar wind is a continuous outflow of charged particles from the Sun's atmosphere into the solar system. At Earth, the solar wind's outward pressure is balanced by the Earth's magnetic field in a boundary layer known as the magnetopause. Plasma density and temperature differences across the boundary layer generate the Chapman-Ferraro current which supports the magnetopause. Along the dayside magnetopause, magnetic reconnection can occur in electron diffusion regions (EDRs) embedded into the larger ion diffusion regions (IDRs). These diffusion regions form when opposing magnetic field lines in the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field merge, releasing magnetic energy into the surrounding plasma. While previous studies have given us a general understanding of the structure of these diffusion regions, we still do not have a good grasp of how they are statistically differentiated from the non-diffusion region magnetopause. By investigating 251 magnetopause crossings from NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission, we demonstrate that EDR magnetopause crossings show current densities an order of magnitude higher than non-EDR magnetopause crossings - crossings that either passed through the reconnection exhausts or through the non-reconnecting magnetopause. Significant current signatures parallel to the local magnetic field in EDR crossings are also identified, which is in contrast to the dominantly perpendicular current found in the non-EDR magnetopause. Additionally, we show that the ion velocity along the magnetopause is highly correlated with a crossing's location, indicating the presence of magnetosheath flows inside the magnetopause current sheet.