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.