THEMIS observations of the magnetopause electron diffusion region: Large amplitude waves and heated electrons

Xiangwei Tang, Cynthia Cattell, John Dombeck, Lei Dai, Lynn B. Wilson, Aaron W Breneman, Adam Hupach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present the first observations of large amplitude waves in a well-defined electron diffusion region based on the criteria described by Scudder et al. [2012] at the subsolar magnetopause using data from one Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) satellite. These waves identified as whistler mode waves, electrostatic solitary waves, lower hybrid waves, and electrostatic electron cyclotron waves, are observed in the same 12 s waveform capture and in association with signatures of active magnetic reconnection. The large amplitude waves in the electron diffusion region are coincident with abrupt increases in electron parallel temperature suggesting strong wave heating. The whistler mode waves, which are at the electron scale and which enable us to probe electron dynamics in the diffusion region were analyzed in detail. The energetic electrons (~30 keV) within the electron diffusion region have anisotropic distributions with T e/Te > 1 that may provide the free energy for the whistler mode waves. The energetic anisotropic electrons may be produced during the reconnection process. The whistler mode waves propagate away from the center of the "X-line" along magnetic field lines, suggesting that the electron diffusion region is a possible source region of the whistler mode waves. Key Points Intense waves are identified in a magnetopause electron diffusion region The waves are coincident with strong wave heating The anisotropic energetic electrons may excite the whistler mode waves

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2884-2890
Number of pages7
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 28 2013


  • electron diffusion region
  • magnetic reconnection
  • magnetopause
  • waves


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