Magnetic reconnection governs the coupling between the solar wind and the magnetosphere, determining the structure and dynamics of near-Earth space.  However, this process does not generally occur in a steady state, but in intermittent episodes known as flux transfer events (FTEs).  FTEs were first identified 3 decades ago, but their exact morphology, dynamics, and role in solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling still elude a comprehensive description. 

We propose to bring together experts in the study of FTEs from different view-points (e.g. ground-based, space-based, and modelling) to review the work of the last 30 years and to use data from the Cluster extended mission, the newly-launched THEMIS mission, and supporting instrumentation such as auroral imagers and ionospheric radars, to finally gain a definitive and unified picture of FTE formation, occurrence rate, size, internal structure and importance in magnetospheric dynamics.   We plan to address:

  • Controversy regarding the nature of flux transfer at the magnetopause 
  • New data-sets coming on-line (Cluster and THEMIS) to address this 
  • Our team comprises expertise in many fields related to flux transfer 
  • We will synthesise old and new observations to provide a definitive answer 


We plan two meetings to undertake the proposed work: 

Early 2009: Review of current knowledge, and plan outline of and responsibilities for writing review paper.  Also define characteristics of ideal events for study by team; identify what could profitably be done with custom modelling.  Synthesis of recent Cluster and THEMIS observations, and discussion of newly identified events.  Plan coordinated research programme. 

Late 2009: Finalise draft of review paper, including synthesis of new events and new modelling.  Plan submission of original research papers by end 2009.

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