EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Mating of two current circuits – A new type of plasma instability

Gerhard Haerendel
Gerhard Haerendel
  • Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany (

In the context of the onset of substorms, observations had revealed the frequent occurrence of an unidentified trigger process. Inspections of such onsets had led to the discovery that high-beta plasma at the magnetosphere-tail boundary became suddenly unstable when so-called auroral streamers lined up closely with that boundary. The manifestation was the appearance of bead-like auroral structures preceding the auroral breakup and subject to nonlinear growth. Highly resolved video coverage of a few events showed that the fast moving beads moved opposite to the convective motions on either side. This led to the proposal [Haerendel & Frey 2021] that the trigger of the instability was the formation of a new current circuit, by a non-MHD process, in the gap between the two adjacent circuits of the high-beta plasma boundary and the auroral streamer. Observational evidence and a model of the current structure will be presented.

How to cite: Haerendel, G.: Mating of two current circuits – A new type of plasma instability, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-4064,, 2022.