Honors College Thesis

Seasonal and Solar Cycle Variations in High-Probability Reconnection Regions on the Dayside Magnetopause

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  • Future satellite missions like NASA’s upcoming Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission are targeting reconnection diffusion regions at the Earth’s magnetopause. These diffusion regions are small compared to the total surface area of the magnetopause. Furthermore, the location of the diffusion region depends on external parameters such as the current state of the Earth’s magnetic field and the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), which is frozen into the solar wind. Even given a complete set of these initial conditions, the location of the diffusion region is still the subject of ongoing research and has yielded several competing models. Our objective is to locate areas on the magnetopause where the diffusion region may be found with a higher probability at a given time. Since the principal temporal variation in the Earth’s magnetic field is governed by the Earth’s seasonal dipole tilt and because solar conditions are roughly periodic over an eleven-year cycle, the external parameters on which the location of the diffusion region depends can be inferred from past data. Using this technique we will explore possible relationships between the terrestrial season and solar cycle and locations where the diffusion region may be found with higher probability. Several of the most popular reconnection models will be used in this analysis, including the tilted neutral line model of component reconnection, anti-parallel reconnection, and a hybrid scheme developed by the present authors which utilizes elements from each of these.
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