Observations of nonthermal plasmas at different aspect angles
Winser, K. J., Lockwood, M., Jones, G. O. L. and Suvanto, K. (1989) Observations of nonthermal plasmas at different aspect angles. Journal of Geophysical Research, 94 (A2). pp. 1439-1449. ISSN 0148-0227
To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/JA094iA02p01439
Data are presented from the EISCAT (European Incoherent Scatter (Facility)) CP-3-E experiment which show large increases in the auroral zone convection velocities (>2 km s−1) over a wide range of latitudes. These are larger than the estimated neutral thermal speed and allow a study of the plasma in a nonthermal state over a range of observing angles. Spectra are presented which show a well-defined central peak, consistent with an ion velocity distribution function which significantly departs from a Maxwellian form. As the aspect angle decreases, the central peak becomes less obvious. Simulated spectra, derived using theoretical expressions for the O+ ion velocity distribution function based on the generalized relaxation collision model, are compared with the observations and show good first-order, qualitative agreement. It is shown that ion temperatures derived from the observations, with the assumption of a Maxwellian distribution function, are an overestimate of the true ion temperature at large aspect angles and an underestimate at low aspect angles. The theoretical distribution functions have been included in the “standard” incoherent scatter radar analysis procedure, and attempts have been made to derive realistic ionospheric parameters from nonthermal plasma observations. If the expressions for the distribution function are extended to include mixed ion composition, a significant improvement is found in fitting some of the observed spectra, and estimates of the ion composition can be made. The non-Maxwellian analysis of the data revealed that the spectral shape distortion parameter, D*, was significantly higher in this case for molecular ions than for atomic ions in a thin height slab roughly 40 km thick. This would seem unlikely if the main molecular ions present were NO+. We therefore suggest that N2+ formed a significant proportion of the molecular ions present during these observations.