Auroral bright spot sequence near 1400 MLT: Coordinated optical and ion drift observations
Sandholt, P. E., Lockwood, M., Lybekk, B. and Farmer, A. D. (1990) Auroral bright spot sequence near 1400 MLT: Coordinated optical and ion drift observations. Journal of Geophysical Research, 95 (A12). pp. 21095-21110. ISSN 0148-0227
To link to this item DOI: 10.1029/JA095iA12p21095
Optical observations of a dayside auroral brightening sequence, by means of all-sky TV cameras and meridian scanning photometers, have been combined with EISCAT ion drift observations within the same invariant latitude-MLT sector. The observations were made during a January 1989 campaign by utilizing the high F region ion densities during the maximum phase of the solar cycle. The characteristic intermittent optical events, covering ∼300 km in east-west extent, move eastward (antisunward) along the poleward boundary of the persistent background aurora at velocities of ∼1.5 km s−1 and are associated with ion flows which swing from eastward to westward, with a subsequent return to eastward, during the interval of a few minutes when there is enhanced auroral emission within the radar field of view. The breakup of discrete auroral forms occurs at the reversal (negative potential) that forms between eastward plasma flow, maximizing near the persistent arc poleward boundary, and strong transient westward flow to the south. The reported events, covering a 35 min interval around 1400 MLT, are embedded within a longer period of similar auroral activity between 0830 (1200 MLT) and 1300 UT (1600 MLT). These observations are discussed in relation to recent models of boundary layer plasma dynamics and the associated magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling. The ionospheric events may correspond to large-scale wave like motions of the low-latitude boundary layer (LLBL)/plasma sheet (PS) boundary. On the basis of this interpretation the observed spot size, speed and repetition period (∼10 min) give a wavelength (the distance between spots) of ∼900 km in the present case. The events can also be explained as ionospheric signatures of newly opened flux tubes associated with reconnection bursts at the magnetopause near 1400 MLT. We also discuss these data in relation to random, patchy reconnection (as has recently been invoked to explain the presence of the sheathlike plasma on closed field lines in the LLBL). In view of the lack of IMF data, and the existing uncertainty on the location of the open-closed field line boundary relative to the optical events, an unambiguous discrimination between the different alternatives is not easily obtained.