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Superthermal ion signatures of auroral acceleration processes

Moore, T. E., Chappell, C. R., Lockwood, M. ORCID: and Waite, J. H. (1985) Superthermal ion signatures of auroral acceleration processes. Journal of Geophysical Research, 90 (A2). pp. 1611-1618. ISSN 0148-0227

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1029/JA090iA02p01611


The retarding ion mass spectrometer on the Dynamics Explorer 1 spacecraft has generated a unique data set which documents, among other things, the occurrence of non-Maxwellian superthermal features in the auroral topside ionosphere distribution functions. In this paper, we provide a representative sampling of the observed features and their spatial morphology as observed at altitudes in the range from a few thousand kilometers to a few earth radii. At lower altitudes, these features appear at auroral latitudes separating regions of polar cap and subauroral light ion polar wind. The most common signature is the appearance of an upgoing energetic tail having conical lobes representing significant ion heat and number flux in all species, including O+. Transverse ion heating below the observation point at several thousand kilometers is clearly associated with O+ outflows. In some events observed, transverse acceleration apparently involves nearly the entire thermal plasma, the distribution function becomes highly anisotropic with T⊥ > T∥, and may actually develop a minimum at zero velocity, i.e., become a torus having as its axis the local magnetic field direction. At higher altitudes, the localized dayside source region appears as a field aligned flow which is dispersed tailward across the polar cap according to parallel velocity by antisunward convective flow, so that upflowing low energy O+ ions appear well within the polar cap region. While this flow can appear beamlike in a given location, the energy dispersion observed implies a very broad energy distribution at the source, extending from a few tenths of an eV to in excess of 50 eV. On the nightside, upgoing ion beams are found to be latitudinally bounded by regions of ion conics whose half angles increase with increasing separation from the beam region, indicating low altitude transverse acceleration in immediate proximity to, and below, the parallel acceleration region. These observations reveal a clear distinction between classical polar wind ion outflow and O+ enhanced superthermal flows, and confirm the importance of low altitude transverse acceleration in ionospheric plasma transport, as suggested by previous observations.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:38917
Publisher:American Geophysical Union


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