Determining the magnetic field structure, electric currents, and plasma distributions within flux transfer event (FTE)‐type flux ropes is critical to the understanding of their origin, evolution, and dynamics. Here the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission's high‐resolution magnetic field and plasma measurements are used to identify FTEs in the vicinity of the subsolar magnetopause. The constant‐α flux rope model is used to identify quasi‐force free flux ropes and to infer the size, the core magnetic field strength, the magnetic flux content, and the spacecraft trajectories through these structures. Our statistical analysis determines a mean diameter of 1,700 ± 400 km (~30 ± 9 di) and an average magnetic flux content of 100 ± 30 kWb for the quasi‐force free FTEs at the Earth's subsolar magnetopause which are smaller than values reported by Cluster at high latitudes. These observed nonlinear size and magnetic flux content distributions of FTEs appear consistent with the plasmoid instability theory, which relies on the merging of neighboring, small‐scale FTEs to generate larger structures. The ratio of the perpendicular to parallel components of current density, RJ, indicates that our FTEs are magnetically force‐free, defined as RJ < 1, in their core regions (<0.6 Rflux rope). Plasma density is shown to be larger in smaller, newly formed FTEs and dropping with increasing FTE size. It is also shown that parallel ion velocity dominates inside FTEs with largest plasma density. Field‐aligned flow facilitates the evacuation of plasma inside newly formed FTEs, while their core magnetic field strengthens with increasing FTE size.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ; ;
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