Articles | Volume 11, issue 5/6
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 11, 579–587, 2004
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-11-579-2004
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 11, 579–587, 2004
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-11-579-2004

  23 Nov 2004

23 Nov 2004

Nonlinear equilibrium structure of thin currents sheets: influence of electron pressure anisotropy

L. M. Zelenyi1, H. V. Malova1,2, V. Yu. Popov3, D. Delcourt4, and A. S. Sharma5 L. M. Zelenyi et al.
  • 1Space Research Institute, RAS, Moscow, Russia
  • 2Scobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics of Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
  • 3Faculty of Physics, Moscow State University, Vorobyevy gory, Moscow, Russia
  • 4Centre d’étude des Environnements Terrestre et Planétaires-CNRS, Saint-Maur des Fossés, France
  • 5Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

Abstract. Thin current sheets represent important and puzzling sites of magnetic energy storage and subsequent fast release. Such structures are observed in planetary magnetospheres, solar atmosphere and are expected to be widespread in nature. The thin current sheet structure resembles a collapsing MHD solution with a plane singularity. Being potential sites of effective energy accumulation, these structures have received a good deal of attention during the last decade, especially after the launch of the multiprobe CLUSTER mission which is capable of resolving their 3D features. Many theoretical models of thin current sheet dynamics, including the well-known current sheet bifurcation, have been developed recently. A self-consistent 1D analytical model of thin current sheets in which the tension of the magnetic field lines is balanced by the ion inertia rather than by the plasma pressure gradients was developed earlier. The influence of the anisotropic electron population and of the corresponding electrostatic field that acts to restore quasi-neutrality of the plasma is taken into account. It is assumed that the electron motion is fluid-like in the direction perpendicular to the magnetic field and fast enough to support quasi-equilibrium Boltzmann distribution along the field lines. Electrostatic effects lead to an interesting feature of the current density profile inside the current sheet, i.e. a narrow sharp peak of electron current in the very center of the sheet due to fast curvature drift of the particles in this region. The corresponding magnetic field profile becomes much steeper near the neutral plane although the total cross-tail current is in all cases dominated by the ion contribution. The dependence of electrostatic effects on the ion to electron temperature ratio, the curvature of the magnetic field lines, and the average electron magnetic moment is also analyzed. The implications of these effects on the fine structure of thin current sheets and their potential impact on substorm dynamics are presented.