Space plasma physics (discontinuities; instruments and techniques)
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The advent of missions comprised of phased arrays of spacecraft, with separation distances ranging down to at least mesoscales, provides the scientific community with an opportunity to accurately analyse the spatial and temporal dependencies of structures in space plasmas. Exploitation of the multi-point data sets, giving vastly more information than in previous missions, thereby allows unique study of their small-scale physics. It remains an outstanding problem, however, to understand in what way comparative information across spacecraft is best built into any analysis of the combined data. Different investigations appear to demand different methods of data co-ordination. Of the various multi-spacecraft data analysis techniques developed to affect this exploitation, the discontinuity analyser has been designed to investigate the macroscopic properties (topology and motion) of boundaries, revealed by multi-spacecraft magnetometer data, where the possibility of at least mesoscale structure is considered. It has been found that the analysis of planar structures is more straightforward than the analysis of non-planar boundaries, where the effects of topology and motion become interwoven in the data, and we argue here that it becomes necessary to customise the analysis for non-planar events to the type of structure at hand. One issue central to the discontinuity analyser, for instance, is the calculation of normal vectors to the structure. In the case of planar and ‘thin’ non-planar structures, the method of normal determination is well-defined, although subject to uncertainties arising from unwanted signatures. In the case of ‘thick’, non-planar structures, however, the method of determination becomes particularly sensitive to the type of physical sampling that is present. It is the purpose of this article to firstly review the discontinuity analyser technique and secondly, to discuss the analysis of the normals to thick non-planar structures detected in magnetometer data.
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