The thinning of the near-Earth current sheet during the growth phase of the CDAW 6 magnetospheric substorm is studied. The expansion onset of the substorm occurred at 1054 UT, March 22, 1979. During the growth phase, two spacecraft, ISEE 1 and ISEE 2, were within the current sheet approximately 13R(E) from the Earth and obtained simultaneous high-resolution magnetic data at two points in the current sheet. Plasma data were also provided by the ISEE spacecraft and solar wind data by IMP 8. To facilitate the analysis, the GSM magnetic field data are transformed to a ''neutral sheet coordinate system'' in which the new x axis is parallel to the average magnetic field above and below the neutral sheet and the new y axis lies in the GSM equatorial plane. A model based on the assumption that the current sheet is a time-invariant structure fails to predict neutral sheet crossing times. Consequently, the Harris sheet model, which allows one to remove the restriction of time invariancy, is used instead. It is found that during the growth phase, a model parameter corresponding to the thickness of the current sheet decreased exponentially from about 5R(E) to 1R(E) with a time constant of about 14 min. In addition, the ISEE 1 and ISEE 2 neutral sheet crossings after expansion onset indicate that the neutral sheet was moving upward at 7 km/s relative to the spacecraft. Since both crossings occurred in approximately 80 s, the current sheet thickness is estimated to be about 500 km. These results demonstrate that the near-Earth current sheet undergoes dramatic thinning during the substorm growth phase and expansion onset.
- PLASMA SHEET
- MARCH 22